Film review: ‘Birds of Prey’ finds its place in a confused DC Universe ★★★☆☆

5 mins read

By Thomas Petch

After seeing Birds of Prey, the latest film in DC’s own cinematic universe, I’m left entertained yet confused by the state of this universe.

To explain what I mean we have to go back to 2016’s Suicide Squad where, despite winning an Oscar and earning $746.8 million at the box office, most people hated that film. However, despite an overall hatred for the project Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was well received and so a few projects that included her character were announced; one of these projects was Birds of Prey.

Still, her role in this film was speculated to be quite limited considering the Birds of Prey are usually a Batgirl-centric team – not a Harley Quinn-centric team. After the promotional material started rolling out the film was advertised as a Harley Quinn spin off – so why call it Birds of Prey?

Herein lies the biggest flaw with this movie. The titular Birds of Prey are simply side characters in a movie focused on Harley becoming her own person, a story which I think works really well. Her performance feels way more genuine than that in Suicide Squad and thanks to some excellent fight choreography that is seemingly on par to the likes of John Wick, she feels much more dangerous and capable too.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the film is not about the Birds of Prey. I mean of course they’re in it, they get they’re name and everything, plus Huntress and Black Canary have interesting characterisations that are close enough to their comic counterparts that makes me want to see more of them in an actual Birds of Prey film; this just isn’t it.

The titular Birds of Prey – but is it really about them? Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

Over in America the film has been renamed Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey and to be honest, the change should have been made months ago around the world. After all, the story is about Harley becoming more than just the Joker’s girlfriend. That’s the plot – it’s a coming of age story for a supervillain and it is handled very well, therefore she should have been the titular character. So, if you’re going in to see a film about the Birds of Prey you will get that… just not until you get most of the way through.

The second biggest flaw with this movie isn’t really the fault of the film. The current state of this franchise is some what up in the air at the moment. Three top tier characters (Superman, Batman and the Joker) are all seemingly being recast or rebooted in various ways. This leaves a kind of hollow feeling when those characters are referenced in these other films.

Take last year’s Shazam! for instance. The final scene of that film shows a faceless Superman donning the Henry Cavill costume, yet we don’t see his face. This just pulls me out because I know it’s not the same person. A similar thing is done here where we see constant references to Jared Leto’s Joker, yet we never see the character in his entirety.

So while this film does manage to tell a complete story in this world, I was left wondering what had happened to Batman and where the Joker was meant to be. Will those versions ever be shown again? Will this Black Canary ever join the Justice League like she does in the comics? I mean, I doubt many people will care about the answers to these questions, but if the franchise is going to keep moving forward without these core characters, eventually they will need to recast or give an explanation.

So, to sum up, Birds of Prey is a great film with an excellent performance from Margot Robbie in a weird, maybe even dying, universe. Yet I find myself more excited to see her character return in The Suicide Squad again… that’s if that film is even connected to this one? At this rate, who even knows?

Featured image credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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