MOVIE REVIEW: Harley Quinn Soars In “Birds of Prey” ★★★☆☆

GOOD Morning Wilton‘s movie reviewer, Sebastian Hunt, is a junior at Wilton High School who loves film and television, and hopes to become a filmmaker himself one day. He’s already gotten a jump start on that, producing his own screenplays and planning on submitting his work to film festivals. You can learn more about Sebastian on GMW‘s “Our Team” page. 

A sequel to Suicide Squad, 2016’s divisive blockbuster smash, has finally arrived in the form of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Birds of Prey cleverly distances itself from its critically mauled predecessor, focusing solely on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad’s most widely praised element).

Birds of Prey follows Quinn in the aftermath of her breakup with The Joker. Divorced from the protection of her Puddin’, Quinn is ardently pursued by numerous threatening entities–most dangerously Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis. Forming the “Birds of Prey” alongside other endangered anti-heroines (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Belle, Rosie Perez and Ella Jay Basco), Quinn attempts to evade Sionis’ clutches, while proving her worth as a Joker-less individual.

Robbie’s performance is essentially a repeat of her Suicide Squad take. However, matched with improved writing and direction, her character emerges as something truly extraordinary.

While Robbie is unquestionably Birds of Prey’s major strength, she also leads to its greatest weakness. The film’s other main actresses–the literal Birds of Prey–aren’t dealt the screen time one might expect from a title-billing. Take for instance Winstead, who portrays Huntress. Winstead’s Huntress is cool and sports a killer outfit, yet is bestowed almost zero real development.

Christina Hodson pens the script. As with her previous effort, 2017’s Bumblebee, Hodson is frustratingly inconsistent. While her major themes are compelling, Hodson’s overarching narrative is painfully contrived–not necessarily bad, just very boring and forgettable.

Thankfully, balancing out Hodson’s lack of narrative creativity is director Cathy Yan, who proves herself as a genuinely gifted big-budget auteur. Unlike the stylistically deprived Marvel films, Birds of Prey is overflowing with visual imagination. From costume designer Erin Benach’s seedy redressing of Gotham City to Daniel Pemberton’s spunky musical compositions, Birds of Prey is easily one of its genre’s most visually and acoustically interesting entries in some time.

Overall, I suppose that I enjoyed Birds of Prey more than I didn’t. Its story is a tad lame and the script is generally imbalanced, but a myriad of colorful performances and fanciful aesthetics mostly make up for that. Recommended, if you have the time.

Ratings Key:
★ – Bad (e.g., Godzilla ‘98, Pixels, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Justice League)
★★ – Mediocre (e.g., Incredibles 2, Watchmen, Alice in Wonderland, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle)
★★★ – Good (e.g., Creed II, Batman, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Pretty In Pink, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective)
★★★★ – Great (e.g., Jurassic Park, Return of the Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Social Network)
★★★★★ – Amazing (e.g., Dr. Strangelove, The Terminator, The Dark Knight, Back to the Future, Skyfall)