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Yesterday I watched Aquaman and yawned my way through CGI fight scenes that must have cost tens of millions and thousands of manhours to make. A day before yesterday, I watched Birds of Prey, a movie that cost half as much as Aquaman and managed to have some of the most creative, fun and well shot fight scenes I have seen in a superhero movie.
Birds of Prey is, on paper, a simple movie about a misogynistic gangster and various misfit women fighting to get their hands on a precious diamond. The movie unnecessarily convolutes this plot, showing scenes out of chronological sequence for no apparent reason other than to replicate the high-energy, demented narration provided by its protagonist, Harley Quinn. Quinn is the weak point of her own movie; her fourth-wall breaking, anti-hero wacky antics range from harmless viewing to obnoxious. I was worn out by Dead Pool doing the exact same shtick even before the end of his own movie, and a lot of the jokes in Birds of Prey fall flat for the same reason.
The second weak point of the movie is Ewan Mc Gregor as the villain Black Mask. The guy is going for an Al Pacino type high energy gangster, but he can't seem to stick with the accent or the persona consistently, and at no point did I ever get the sense that he was dangerous or powerful enough force for the heroes to not simply shoot him in the face and be done with him. In a movie that depends on its characters to lead the story, it needed more from Black Mask. Fortunately, the rest of the support cast make up for this, especially Huntress, the mysterious yet socially awkward assassin.
So whilst the movie lacks some important elements, it does the job of existing as a vehicle for highly imaginative and spectacular action scenes. And these more than make up for everything wrong with the film. The fairly small scale action, whether it's Quinn sauntering through a police station with a grenade launcher full of beanbags, or her chasing a speeding car whilst on roller skates, allows for lots of practical effects and fight choreography on proper film sets. It's all stuff sorely lacking within big budgeted Superhero films, which now mostly consist of putting actors in big green rooms, wanting to create the most spectacular cartoon like scenes possible.
And that's all I really want to say about Birds of Prey. It's earned a recommendation, and I regret that I, along with a lot of people, didn't pay it more attention on its initial release. I would happily trade this movie over most other superhero movies.
Excellently choreographed action sequences and stunning sets. The writing for each character is great, although I felt that a few characters deserved a lot more time than they received. I loved that Harley was, despite the humanizing qualities of this iteration, still unquestionably a villainous figure. It's a Villain Protagonist movie, full stop. She's never going to be a Good Person, but she wasn't at all unlikable as a character. It was so fucking fun. Best time I've had at the cinema in a long while.
Birds of Prey despite having a long title is quite a short movie, it's not even 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Margot Robbie's character Harley doesn't have much personality to her other than being this crazy girl who loves going on crimes, shooting/killing enemies who wronged her, easily angering other people, so the screen writers always put Harley in a position of happily eating food and talking about food, making her a materialist by having her admiring purses and luxurious goods, watching Looney Tunes and owning a pet hyena.
I tend to interpret that Harley Quinn was DC's response to how much money Marvel made off of Deadpool. But the difference is Deadpool is actually funny, he can crack a joke about any topic he's given and he has a much better knowledge of pop culture while Harley's idea of being funny is sharing Twizzlers orally with a hyena like "Lady and Tramp spaghetti", poking fun at her own hilariously abusive childhood with cartoons and telling the audience just how many people she pissed off and now want revenge on her.
Harley blowing up the ACE Chemicals compound with a gas truck does create a colorful explosion, but it only stalls the plot and it's hardly interesting to the viewer. The investigation and police scenes involving Montoya and her superiors have very banal dialogue, I couldn't wait for those scenes to end because their chatter seemed too uninteresting and felt more like an actual police conversation than a truly important scene. It's all just talk about evidence, forensics and progress being made in tracking crime.
Though the flat characterization of Harley Quinn isn't the weakest point of the movie, but rather it's that Harley always keeps kicking the gun right out of the hands of the mercenaries sent out to kill her. This is a common thing found in action movies, but I don't find much joy in watching this repeatedly.
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