These Birds Don’t Fly
Birds Of Prey is a mess. It’s an enjoyable mess but it’s a film littered with issues that are hard to ignore. Behind the visual facade of explosions, glitter guns and freeze-frame vignettes is a picture paper thin in both characterisation and compelling story-telling.
Margot Robbie does well to prop the film up, and the soundtrack is excellent in conveying that female-empowering message the film smartly doesn’t shoe-horn in but Birds Of Prey attempts to position itself as DC’s answer to Deadpool and fails to pull this off in a competent way.
Despite the vehement desire to disassociate itself from the disastrous Suicide Squad, Birds Of Prey essentially acts as a sequel to that film. Joker and Harley Quinn have broken up and Harley is forced onto the streets, with a big bulls-eye on her back without the protection of Mr J. Unfortunately at the top of that blood-lusting list is Black Mask, aka. Roman Sionis. As the film progresses, we’re introduced to various other female superheroes to bolster out the roster, including Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya who find their journeys intertwined with Harley Quinn’s as everyone descends on a young girl holding a valuable diamond in her possession.
Between heavy doses of exposition and an unnecessarily convoluted timeline (involving freeze-frames, fourth wall breaks, flashbacks and rewind segments), Birds Of Prey seemingly does everything it can to sabotage its own plot. There are so many moments here that mirror Deadpool and Suicide Squad in both style and tone that causes this film to water down its own identity to something that vaguely resembles a superhero flick. The fight scenes do help break up the paper-thin story but these are hit or miss to say the least.
Choreographer Jon Valera does his best with the material here, especially coming off the back of the bombastic treat of John Wick 3, but the fights here range from exhilarating and visually impressive to awkwardly staged, slow-moving and sluggish. The ending fight, while technically impressive given the spinning carousel, attempts in vain to bombard the screen with many moving parts to disguise some of the issues. Characters stand around waiting for their next cue, henchmen either fall awkwardly or fly through the air, and the revolving camera feels like an attempt to hide some of this. Having said that, there are a few great segments, especially one early on involving a glitter-gun in a police station which is one of the highlights of the film.
Aside from Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor, the rest of the cast are completely forgettable. The actual Birds Of Prey characters are reduced to background cameos for much of the film too; the girls don’t even come together to fight until the final 20 minutes of the film. Their back-story is explained to us through some Harley Quinn narration and flashbacks while the characters barely have any lines together or resemble a compelling team of heroes that care and look out for each other.
Of course, this is still a superhero film but as titles like Joker, Logan and even the recent Infinity War films have shown us, you can balance action and characterisation together and still craft a compelling story around this. Birds Of Prey is certainly a better effort than both Justice League and Suicide Squad but is that really that much of a complement? They say birds of a feather flock together but here these birds have been squeezed in a cage with no chance to stretch their wings and fly. Birds Of Prey is a mess but it’s a rare breed of mess that manages to remain just about enjoyable enough to watch regardless of its flaws. It’s certainly not one you’ll return to in a hurry but during a dreary, rainy afternoon it may just be enough to see you throw away a few hours in the theatre.