2020, Movies

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020, Cathy Yan)

I remember hearing about the good reviews. And I briefly thought that maybe here was a recent DC movie I wanted to watch. And then I promptly forgot about it until I got on a plane. Now, it’s possible that this film didn’t work for in part because it was the second film I watched as I flew across North America, but it’s also possible that it’s a mess.

This is an aggressively stylized film, far more so than the other recent DC movies I’ve seen. (Keep in mind I have not seen all of them.) I can tell you that this aggressive stylization, while perhaps being new to DC films, is not new to films in general, and certainly not particularly distinct. If I had been taking notes, I might have noted some movies this one references or rips off, but I didn’t do that. I just wanted to point out that what might feel fresh to some doesn’t feel fresh to all. (Yes, I’m a snob. But if you watched as many movies as I have, you’d be a snob too.)

I should have liked this movie. Quinn is awful, but funny, and certainly there was a lot of potential to succeed like Deadpool did. But the aggressive stylization actually works against the jokes much of the time and it also works against the story. I know nothing of the source material so maybe the stylization is sort of necessary, but I found it distracting. (Also, a quick Google of the original Birds of Prey suggests that this film isn’t super faithful to said source material. But what do I know?)

Margot Robbie remains great as Quinn but she can’t really save the film around her. Some of that is on the story, not just the stylization, as we focus mostly on some of the Birds of Prey but not all, for much of the movie. And then one of them gets like an origin flashback montage instead of character development. Compare the arcs of Black Canary, Montoya and Huntress. They’re treated quite differently, aren’t they?

I found myself wondering about the choices more than I watched the movie as entertainment. That’s never a good thing. And it made it hard to enjoy a superhero movie that I should have enjoyed more than most.


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