FILM REVIEW: Birds Of Prey
Since Birds Of Prey was first announced that this film was coming to the big screen, I have been so excited. For me, there just wasn’t enough Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, and after getting just a taste as to how good Margot Robbie was as the character, I wanted to see more – with the addition of even more badass female characters.
Well, I somehow managed to bag an invite to the World Premiere in London last week. I got to MEET THE CAST, which was an absolutely incredible experience, thanks again to Warner Brothers UK for the memories. But I also got to see the film early. Here’s what I thought.
The story follows Harley Quinn (of course), as she tries to find her own identity and make a name for herself without being associated with Joker after they broke up. During their relationship she gained a lot of enemies, enemies that she weren’t expecting to come after her now that she has announced that she is back on the market. Lucky for her, she finds herself amidst a group of bad-ass women who are all somehow linked and share the same enemy – Black Mask.
What I really loved about this story, is the way it’s told. Just like Harley Quinn, it’s completely random, beautifully chaotic and loads of fun. Cathy Yan has done an incredible job of bringing the story to life in such a unique way, and it really keeps you guessing. There are numerous moments where Harley breaks into the ‘fourth-wall’ and addresses the audience directly, I love that. It really showcases the kind of character that she is, and allows you to get to know her and her trail of thought a lot better. There are also scenes that jump back in time to explain why this particular enemy is after Harley, and it also explains the origins of these awesome yet tragic women in a very clever and endearing way.
I loved the story and the way that the film was told, and I love that it didn’t ignore Suicide Squad, in fact it actually featured some reminiscent and important scenes from it. That’s all I will say about it, as I don’t want to spoil it for you by going on about it too much. But I will say this, considering there was SO much going on, and so much intertwined Cathy Yan and Christina Hodson really found a unique way to make it clear and still offer a fair share of surprises.
It is clear that this film is all about female empowerment and representing different races, sexuality and real-life situations. As a woman, a mixed race woman, I LIVE FOR THAT! It’s safe to say that this film offers role models and bad-ass women to look up to regardless of which ‘bracket/s’ you fall into. I’ll go into more detail with the characters below.
The casting is impeccable, I really would not change or alter any of the casting choices for this film, which a lot of the time can be a rarity.
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Like I said before, we have already seen Margot as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, but my god. Margot proved exactly why she was cast as the character and exactly why she was born to play this role. Her casting really is an incredible one. She perfectly harnesses all that is Harley Quinn, the attitude, the accent, the way of thinking, just everything. I really do hope that we get to see her in many more films, it’s clear that she has that in her sights too, after she has expressed an interest in bringing in new characters to the saga.
Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary
I’ve seen an unruly amount of racist and distasteful comments on this casting, and I was genuinely ashamed to see DC fans write such disgusting comments. So what if Black Canary is white in the comics? Jurnee absolutely smashed it, and she is THE best on screen Canary we have ever seen. She is just incredible in the role and you really see her grow into that Canary Cry. We really got to see and delve into her back story, and now I can’t wait to see more of her. Jurnee really did send a huge “f**k you” to those who criticised her casting, and you can see how much she has inspired people just from seeing the response from people like young girls of colour. She is phenomenal.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress
I’ve always been a fan of Mary, especially since she played Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim. Well, she brings that exact same level of badassery to this character, if not more! She has that edgy vibe to her, which really helps escalate the coolness and vibe of this particular character. I have to say the back story to this character is pretty much 100% comic book accurate and it is such an excellent origin at that. Personally I didn’t know much about Huntress as a character, so I’m glad that Mary really brought her to life, in fact now I want to know EVERYTHING about her. She represents the boyish girls out there who maybe didn’t have a great deal of friends and female encounters, and I can appreciate how important and refreshing it is to see such a character represented on the big screen.
Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya
Rosie Perez is perfect in this role. Again, this was another character I didn’t know too much about, other than her appearance in the latest Lois Lane series. Since I saw her in that, and got to know her a little bit more, I have wanted to see more and more of her. This is exactly what I needed. Rosie Perez absolutely smashes this character, and sometimes it’s hard to think of Renee as her character as she is just so natural in the role. Rosie is one of the characters that really represent the LBGTQ community as her character is a Lesbian. For me we don’t see much of that relationship, but it seems like something that will further be explored, I hope.
Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain
First things first, if you are a comic book fan, I’m sure you are going to have something to say about this portrayal of Cassandra Cain. It is completely different to what readers know and love and I can see that being a problem for many DC geeks out there. I will say though that you fall in love with her, she’s extremely likeable and brings many laughs to the film. She really grounds Harley Quinn, which I love, with her being such a crazy and unpredictable character it’s really nice to see that she does really have a soft side. I think if we were to really go into her back story (if it were comic accurate), it would really complicate the story telling I feel. This character would really benefit from that story being told in the future.
Ewan McGregor as Black Mask
Well, Black Mask is now up there with my most feared comic book villains, my god. This character really brings home how dark the film is, and how Gotham is as a whole. He certainly adds a contrast to the rest of the film. He was terrifying and held no mercy. Ewan McGregor played him perfectly, a really great performance. The way he just switches from being Mr Nice Guy to a psychopath is just mesmerising. For me, I felt there maybe wasn’t enough of Black Mask, there were many scenes with him in or around, but not many that really focused on him or who he was as a person. I really wanted to see more of this character and perhaps have him as an ongoing villain throughout the series (wishful thinking).
Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz
Chris Messina is completely unrecognisable in this film, and that really shows his range as an actor. Just like the comics Victor is incredibly psychotic but yet so loyal. I love the relationship between him and Black Mask, as he acts as his emotional support I felt, which gave Black Mask a slightly softer feel. For me there were many times where it felt like Zsazs actually neutered Black Mask. He was the one that calmed him down and sometimes egged him on so easily, which sometimes took the limelight away from the real villain. In an interview it was mentioned that the pair may have a slightly gay relationship and that is exactly the vibe we get in the film. There certainly is something more than friendship there, but I feel that isn’t quite executed as much as it could have been.
Cathy Yan has done a great job of bringing characters that you may not have been familiar with into the limelight. She has made them really relatable, likeable, bat-shit crazy, yet awesome. I can see these character now being firm go-to characters when it comes to DC lore. From their portrayals and features in the film alone, I feel such a stronger connection to each and every one of them, and I really do hope to see more of each and every one of The Birds.
Cinematography & Special Effects
Well, where do I start… The feel of this film is just so fun, adventurous, bright and bold. The marketing that has been carried out for this film really does give you a taste of the film. The first half of the film is incredibly colourful and playful and it feels a lot like LA to me. It really does fit with the characters and feel of the film. Whereas the second half of the film really feels like Gotham to me, especially the Gotham that is portrayed in the Arkham City game, I would say it’s clear that at least some inspiration has come from this game to say the least.
It feels like there isn’t too much CGI in Birds Of Prey. The most noticable was of course the Hyeena – Bruce. I felt this was really well done actually, it wasn’t taken too seriously so we weren’t expecting effects that rivalled ‘The Lion King’, but it was realistic enough to make you beleive in him. I don’t know about you but I really want a pet Hyeena now…
Unlike a lot of superhero films the action in Birds Of Prey is done through fight choreography. This really benefits from that, as it makes this film feel and look very different to the recent releases from DC. It makes it feel real, and that really adds grittiness to it. Speaking of… the combat and fight choreography is absolutely incredible and so hard-hitting. There were so many times where I felt the punches and actually grimaced at some of the scenes. What I love about the choreography is that it’s so random. This was especially present with Harley Quinn who didn’t always pick the right weapon of choice, but certainly improvised with what she did have. This was absolutely epic, and really showed how well Margot, Christine and Cathy understood the character. These fight scenes were perfectly paired with some incredible music, which really brought them to life.
The score of Birds Of Prey isn’t so much a score, but instead a soundtrack and I have to say the film really benefits from that. Usually I’m a sucker for an original score, but I have to say the music choices for each and every scene is so well thought out, and it really heightens the badassery of many of them. Just like the cast and characters, the soundtrack just oozes female empowerment, and you can never have enough of that. Not only that, but there is a vast range of music styles featured too, from heavy metal during the fight scenes, to rap and dance music during the club scenes, this film really uses that variety in the best of ways.
The soundtrack for Birds of Prey not only features hits from some of the biggest females in music right now, it also features a member of the cast. Listen out for Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s rendition of ‘This Is A Man’s World’ whilst you are watching. The way and moment that the song is used in the film is so powerful, and even more so when you realise what an incredible voice our Black Canary has. If you’re as pumped as I was after hearing the songs featured in the film, you’ll be pleased to know that the full soundtrack is available to purchase and is available to stream on Spotify NOW!
Overall, Birds Of Prey has such a different vibe to any DC Film to date, and that’s what I really love about it. Although it references previous films, it acts as a standalone film, which I really hope turns into a series. It’s fun, stylish, badass and genuinely one of the best female team ups I’ve seen to date. I really cannot wait to see it again, and again, and again.
Oh are if you are curious about mid and post credit scenes for Birds Of Prey, do not get your hopes up, but there is a great little feature just after the credits, which is definitely worth waiting for.
Birds Of Prey is out in cinemas THIS Friday (7th February). I will most certainly be going to see Birds Of Prey again in cinemas, I absolutely loved it and I think you guys will too!