You must watch the brightest superhero movie on HBO Max before it leaves next week
The DC Cinematic Universe has a complicated schedule. It might just be a statement about a long-standing issue, but for fans who champion DC superhero movies, there have been few really successful ones in terms of tone and fan engagement. . Even then, those who succeed manage to spoil their quality with ill-thought-out sequelae (for example, Wonder woman and then, unfortunately, Wonder Woman 1984.)
That’s not to say that DC has failed to imbue its screen efforts with the same level of quality as its comics. In recent years, films such as Shazam! and Aquaman breathed new life into the genre through new vanity or an infinitely charming role (Jason Momoa).
Even bigger are all of the animated releases the studio has mined over the years. Of Batman the animated series to the most recent Harley Quinn, the animated series breathed new energy into longtime canonical characters while varying the tone, style and plot. And just one live entry into the DC Cinematic Universe captures the similar vibrant energy of the animated series, and that’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
Between director Cathy Yan’s unbridled enthusiasm behind the camera and her confident take on Harley Quinn’s iteration of Margot Robbie, Birds of prey is an endlessly watchable and vibrant take on the superhero genre. Functioning like an animated film with its episodes of dreamlike sequences, its caricatural violence and its stylized sets, Birds of prey captures the livewire energy that a Harley Quinn movie must have while convincing audiences why this character is worth cheering on. Here’s why you should stream Birds of prey before leaving HBO Max on November 14.
Harley Quinn’s characterization has been all over the map between Birds of prey and the two versions of Suicide Squad. But it’s the version of Yan that’s the most layered, offering the most complex understanding of the character so far. Here Harley is (obviously) more independent after being dumped by “Mr. J “as she tries to avoid all the enemies she has now that she no longer has the Joker’s protection while healing from this toxic relationship.
Therefore, Birds of prey highlights its greatest features. She is an amalgamation of contradictions, from her street intelligence and ability to be easily distracted to her fierce and relentless fighting style and impulsive curiosity. She’s got a heart – as shown by her protection of Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), but the story doesn’t defeat Harley. She is always tirelessly ruthless. Even under an injection of a sedative, she manages to give a few stab wounds (literally) to Chris Messina’s henchman, Victor Zsasz.
The ensemble as a whole is strong, especially the actresses who round out the title “Birds of Prey” with Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jurnee Smollett. They all bring enough life to the characters of Renee Montoya, The Huntress, and Black Canary. We can believe that even if they don’t like each other, they will work together to take down Ewan McGregor’s villainous Black Mask.
Much of the film’s success relies on Robbie and the writing, and she and screenwriter Christina Hodson are up to the task. Fortunately, there is very little subtlety in Birds of prey, a film that prefers grandiose sets and colorful, choreographed combat sequences to anything close to reality. Robbie offers just enough subtlety, however, that her extensively drawn and fascinatingly portrayed character still feels real enough that the stakes – both self-inflicted and victimized – are high.
These contrasting aspects build Birds of prey to be such an engaging film. The absurd elements don’t compromise moments of catharsis, such as Harley and her team raiding her old storage arsenal to deal with threats to come, essentially militarizing her troubled past to face her deadly present. âSeriousâ moments don’t take themselves too seriously.
Instead, Yan, Hodson, and Robbie take Harley Quinn and her emotional wounds seriously without ever forgetting the fictional and exacerbated world she lives in. For this reason, Birds of prey executes a brilliant tonal balance that makes the film DC’s best cinematic universe and one of the best superhero movies, period.
Birds of prey airs on HBO Max until November 14, 2021.