‘Birds of Prey’ delivers empowerment with style

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As director Martin Scorsese would say, not all films of the superhero genre are considered cinema. However, that doesn’t mean the films can’t be considered important pieces of entertainment that expand viewers’ definitions of what it means to be powerful.

Director Cathy Yan’s newest addition to the DC universe, “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is one that illustrates the complexities of one of the most well-known anti-heroes of all time, Harley Quinn.

Picking up where “Suicide Squad” (2016) left off, “Birds of Prey” begins with Quinn’s (Margot Robbie) recovery after her breakup with the Joker. She’s left distraught and vulnerable without his protection, but she is still hungry for her own reinstatement and a fresh start without him. 

While the two films are different in their tone, I will say that it was refreshing to see Quinn’s character finally done right, in a way that is both tasteful and empowering. What “Suicide Squad” failed to bring to the table, “Birds of Prey” brings in full, brightly colored packaging.

The film follows how each member of the “Birds of Prey” come to realize their potential as a group of crime fighting women. Each character, Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), have their own backstories of compliancy, loss and revenge that strengthen their need to combat the corrupt Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), whom they also have ties to. While each character comes from a different background, it’s the aspect of both independence and unity that acts as the backbone of the film.

As many superhero/anti-hero films are usually played out, there are a few moments that lag and seem a bit overdone (a scene where Quinn fights a handful of men inside a prison comes to mind), but it feels appropriate for a film adapted from a comic book series. The movie is filled with a cheeky, cartoon-esque sense of humor that strings along the entire way.

Despite the moments that drag behind, “Birds of Prey” exceeded in areas that develop Quinn and the other characters more deeply and show the complexities of being a woman struggling to succeed in a broken city, while still showing compassion for other people. This is amplified in the way the team wants to protect the young Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from Sionis, while still fighting for their revenge on all the men who’ve hurt them.

I would recommend a “Birds of Prey” viewing to someone who is a fan of the original DC comics, or anyone who wants to see a proper origin story about amazing women, and of course, one Harley Quinn.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Danielle Kessler can be reached at [email protected] or @reserv0irpups on Twitter.