(Even more) crazy, fearless: Harley Quinn’s return

by Joelle Tindal, Reporter

Summed up: Colorful, explosive and all sorts of fun. Despite the mess of 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” I had high hopes for “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” directed by Cathy Yan. Harleen Quinzel stole the show in “Suicide Squad” and her unique look was one of the most popular Halloween costumes of 2016. Being the star of her own movie, free of the Joker, was refreshing and allowed her bold personality to shine.

Margot Robbie delivers another fantastic performance of her popular character Harley Quinn, though the other cast members were perfect for their respective roles. Ewan McGregor in particular makes a terrifying villain as Roman Sionis (aka Black Mask). Essentially, Sionis is a sadistic, materialistic child with tremendous amounts of money and power. Thirsty for control, yet certainly not poised — the antagonist loses his temper frequently and throws tantrums when he isn’t getting his way. McGregor’s most well-known role is Obi-Wan Kenobi, a level-headed, wise mentor, in the “Star Wars” franchise; so expertly embodying a character like Sionis shows some of McGregor’s skill and the breadth of his acting range.

Altogether, the protagonists form a team with interesting dynamics. The quieter, withdrawn Huntress (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) completely clad in black and deadly with a crossbow, the hard-as-nails cop who plays by her own rules Renee Montoya (played by Rosie Perez), and compassionate, down-to-earth Black Canary (played by Jurnee Smolett-Bell) are all brought together through a series of interconnected events concerning the Bertinelli diamond. The main plot of the movie, which takes place over the course of two days, begins when Cassandra Cain (played by Ella Jay Basco) pickpockets the diamond Sionis was after. All the people on the team of protagonists share the desire to come into their own in defiance of the people or circumstances that have either controlled or limited them, which allows them to form bonds with one another. 

As for the content of the movie itself, the progression of the story isn’t linear. “Birds of Prey” expertly executes what “Suicide Squad” tried to accomplish when it jumped between characters to recount each protagonist’s backstory. The narrator of the movie is Harley Quinn, whose scattered behavior and mind are represented through the twisting around and backtracking of the story progression up until the climax of the movie (after which time progresses linearly). The change in pace between time jumps is jarring at times, but being swept up in the mind of Harley Quinn as she recounts the story is a unique, engaging movie experience.

A couple of noteworthy elements of the movie are the action sequences and soundtrack. The action scenes drew inspiration from old Jackie Chan movies, and the company 87Eleven contributed to the dynamic yet practical fighting scenes in “Birds of Prey.” The soundtrack is incredible — from a slow, foreboding cover of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by ADONA to a collaboration between artists Saweetie and GALXARA featuring a remix of the song “Sway With Me” —  the songs are energizing and expertly placed in the movie.

Besides the amazing characters, soundtrack, and lively pacing, “Birds of Prey” also features LGBT+ representation. Two characters in “Birds of Prey” are confirmed to be LGBT+; although the nods to the respective characters’ sexualities is brief, the acknowledgement is appreciated nonetheless. Though superhero films today have included some LGBT+ characters, such as Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok” or Grieving Man in “Avengers: Endgame” (big props to the directors for that truly groundbreaking character), the community remains lacking in representation in the DC and Marvel movie franchises. Seeing themselves in the strong, courageous protagonists of movies is important, as it helps people feel seen and empowered. Although “Birds of Prey” didn’t emphasize or make glaringly obvious the sexual identities of the characters, it was a wise choice — the movie is at its heart a story about people regaining their senses of identity through their own strength and platonic bonds rather than through romance. 

After the unconventional, haunting, and award-winning “Joker” directed by Todd Phillips in 2019, I had high hopes for the next major DC film. Thankfully, “Birds of Prey” delivered all that I want in an action movie and more — the future of DC looks bright.