A film’s pacing can make or break it. In “Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” the pacing is the one driving factor that is keeping this film from being a great “superhero” movie.
A spinoff/sequel to “Suicide Squad” where we first got to see Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn, this film seems to do everything opposite to the recently released Joker movie. From its tones to its character work, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it seems to be having fun. From the first scene you can tell that this movie is continuing the new formula for DC movies, which is not trying to be Marvel. They’re letting directors and writers have fun. And that is what this movie is: Fun.
The film has three major strengths: character, choreography and comedy. Harley Quinn does an amazing job as a main protagonist with her comedic retelling of her origin story. I personally do not think the retelling was necessary, but fun nonetheless. One of my favorite parts of the film was the way the writers were able to bring in small nods to the comics in Quinn’s actions, my favorite of which being her psychoanalytic nature in many scenes. There are many comedic examples of Quinn using her doctorate in psychology to analyze other character’s actions while she herself is insane. The writers seem to show their love and knowledge for the source material throughout the film.
The other characters present in the story such as Black Canary and Renee Montoya are all interesting and developed characters by the end of the movie. The part of the movie that surprised me most of all was its fight choreography. Of any “superhero film” this movie ranks among the greats in the action department. This movie put a lot of stock into its action being good and it is one of the best parts of the movie. Every character in “Birds of Prey” seems to have their own unique fighting style that is representative of their characters.It really does help the movie’s fight scenes feel unique. Lastly, this movie is funny. It has “Deadpool” levels of humor that keep the audience laughing through the entire movie, but none of the humor takes away from the serious moments in the movie.
However, the movie is not perfect. There is one glaring flaw in this movie: pacing. These types of movies in which they’re trying to bring in so many characters and build them up all suffer from this. “Birds of Prey” takes the first half of the movie to introduce every major character but it does it in an infuriating and confusing way. With Quinn telling the story, they try to use the unreliable narrator gimmick as an excuse, but it just makes the movie drag on.. It feels like as soon as the film wants to pick up and finally has its wheels underneath it, Quinn will stop the scene and go through and tell another origin story of a character. I understand that these characters have to be built up to make sense, but when it takes up half the movie and it is all done in flashbacks, the movie hurts to watch.
SPOILERS: I also have one other problem with the way the movie handled its major villain. This movie was given one of the greatest DC villains in Black Mask. He really does help the movie a serious vibe at times but the film makes one major mistake: They killed him. Black Mask is one of the most iconic villains in the DC universe being a major player in Gotham City, but having him die in this movie feels like a waste. Yes, there is a large rogues gallery in the DC Universe, but losing Black Mask in this movie feels like Joker dying in a Robin movie; it just does not feel right. If they ever decide to venture further into the DC Universe and give movies to characters like Nightwing and Red Hood, they are going to struggle as Black Mask is a major foil to many Heroes in the universe.
END OF SPOILERS: Overall, this movie is exactly what I wanted it to be: a director/writing staff being given a topic and set free to do what they wanted. This movie is fun, action packed and funny. Yes, it suffers from some serious pacing issues and character mishandling, but if you enjoy comic books and the Gotham City lore, you should definitely see this movie.