Review: Birds of Prey

The five characters in Birds of Prey in a dark room.  They are backlit from a large broken round window.  All five are armed and striding purposefully as they look toward their right.
Birds of Prey | Warner Bros. Pictures

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn) dropped into theaters on Friday. According to the oh so witty trackers of opening weekend revenue, BOP laid a giant egg.

Not so fast, say I. Revenue is only one metric of success. My metrics are more story driven, and I loved what I saw.

Here's a bit about it. Only one teeeeny tiny spoiler, I promise.

Regardless of a movie's source material, I usually have five boxes to check for a happy viewing experience:

1) Is it an engaging story?

2) Is it a fresh look at the material?

3) Is it worthy of noodling over once I leave the cinema?

4) Are womxn and womxn's experiences important if not centered?

5) Does the movie avoid racist and sexist tropes?

BOP gets a resounding YES to all five.

The movie is narrated by Harley, and her point of view--non-linear and redactive--breaks the fourth wall to yank us into her glitter-filled time of personal upheaval. The gaze established is firmly her own (not male), and everything in the movie reflects her mindset, from her clothes and the set dressings to her crooning about her one true love (spoiler: not the Joker).

There's plenty of action, including a hugely fun car/motorcycle chase. But the violence is curated. Male-generated violence is spurious, narcissistic, vengeful, and about domination, specifically over the weak and terrified. The violence doled out by the women is in service to protection and liberation, and it doesn't come as a first resort.

BOP centers action and agency, not superheroes or super villains. It is smart, and many-layered, and is going to stand up to repeat viewing. It isn't so much about redemption (Harley is still Harley, after all) as it is about reclaiming your power and ... well, smashing the Patriarchy with a mallet.

What's not to love?

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Warner Bros. Release date 7 February 2020. (NB: WB has changed the movie's title to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey to bolster sagging sales.)

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