This article contains spoilers; that’s if twitter hasn’t ruined it for you already.
All the ingredients were there, but the cake just didn’t rise.
Let me start by saying, like millions of DC fans all over the world, I was disappointed by Suicide Squad, and that’s putting it politely. However, the one redeeming quality the 2016 David Ayer film had was Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn. It goes without saying that when the news broke about her spinoff, I was excited. The one bright spark from an otherwise disastrously dull film was going to be given the spotlight she deserved.
The hype surrounding the film was as expected. When I entered the cinema on opening night, I was taken aback by how empty the cinema was. When we walked into the screen, there were about six other people there, that should’ve been my first clue. However, I’m going to start with the good bits because, well, that’s just the kind of person I am.
The film addressed ‘The Joker’ straight away in the form of a short animated sequence that neatly summed up how Harley Quinn got to have half of Gotham wanting her dead. Not only was it entertaining, but it saved DC from further ridicule about wrongly casting such an iconic character.
From the trailer, I was expecting the story to follow Harley Quinn and her quest to assemble a crew, because the bounty on her head had rendered her helpless and in need of allies. I’m pleased to say that no such cliché took place – well not in the way you would think anyway. The way Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Black Canary (Journee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Det. Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) joined forces, is organic in nature and true to Harley Quinn’s character, who isn’t the kind to ask for help before exhausting every avenue of her own first.
I’m not going to discuss the plot because it’s not necessary, but I will say, the premise of the film was one its strongest qualities. In one way or another, ‘The Birds of Prey’ are breaking free from the men that made them, trained them, broke their hearts or their faith, and proving that they can succeed on their own. The personalities between the female roles did complement each other well; I’m sure cliques everywhere are already matching themselves up to the characters in the film;
“You’re a Huntress. No, you’re more of a Huntress; I’m more of a Black Canary.”
;that’s if they actually went to see it.
The soundtrack really did help elevate the film. Featuring tracks from Megan Thee Stallion, Normani, Charlotte Lawrence and Doja Cat, as well as renditions of well-known classics Sway and Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend, in a Marylin Monroe inspired sequence that seemed to be a fan favourite.
My biggest issue with the film came from elements that may seem small in the grand scheme of things but really impacted the way I saw the film.
The cast was diverse for sure, but I couldn’t help but feel that the parts they were portraying were tired and played out. Black Canary is a lounge singer in the club of the man who she feels beholden to, Roman Sionis (Aaron Eckhart). The role of the entertainer is one that black actors are all too familiar with, and although the performance was strong, I feel as if her character could have done without this cliché. Also, don’t even get me started on the bit where she defeated around a hundred guys with the power of her voice; I understand the symbolism, I really do, but I just felt it took the film to a level of farfetched (if that’s even possible) that wasn’t necessary.
The same goes for Det. Renee Montoya; a downtown, female detective, stuck on the cliché of bad 80’s detective TV shows, a woman in man’s world, snubbed by her Captain and the rest of her male colleagues. I believe that for a film who consciously considered the diversity of their leads, could have put more effort into diversifying the narrative they conveyed.
The film was also grossly predictable, and you could spot so-called ‘plot twists’ way before they had even alluded to them. Huntress, seeking revenge for the Bertinelli crime family; Harley Quinn, adopting Cassandra Caine as her prodigy; Det. Montoya, giving up life as a detective to make her own rules alongside ‘The Birds of Prey’: it just wasn’t very original.
None of the male roles in the film were very impressive, either. I understand it wasn’t about them, but I still think they could have had more substance. Particularly Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Roman Sionis; his performance wasn’t bad per se; it just wasn’t particularly shocking or memorable.
I can appreciate the film for what it was; a piece of entertainment, that takes you away from some of the more hard-hitting narratives directors seem to favour these days, with some kickass female action. However, as the second film to be seen in 2020, I can only hope that it’s up from here.