Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey (2020). (Warner Bros. Pictures)

‘Birds of Prey’ fails to take flight

February 25, 2020

In what attempts to be a social and political commentary, “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” falls flat. A follow up to the 2016 movie “Suicide Squad,” “Birds of Prey” follows the story of the film’s protagonist and narrator, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).

The movie picks up following Joker and Harley’s break up. Harley’s searches for freedom and independence.

The Joker does not make an appearance in the movie, but “Birds of Prey” maintains thematic consistency with the 2019 movie “Joker” in its commitment to nihilism. Both movies follow the lives of anti-establishment outsiders who have taken their commitment to anarchy as a maxim to live by. Harley has the raw materials for an engaging lead character and director Cathy Yan’s use of a break-up as the entry point of the movie is a compelling start to the film. The beginning of the movie offers a strong promise for the audience to experience Harley’s character evolution in an action-packed two-hour movie.

However, the film fails to provide original insight or commentary into the life and story of Harley Quinn. “Birds of Prey” delivers on fun and some hectic twists but ultimately proves to be a cookie-cutter action movie.

Beyond her deranged laughter and zingers, the most notable line of the movie is when Harley says, “I voted for Bernie.”

The show of support is supposedly meant to explain one of the reasons that the citizens of Gotham City hate Harley. If the intent was for the audience to mock her supposed socialist faux pas, or more likely, her perennial outsider status, the director did not make it clear.

In fact, most of the movie is characterized by a dramatically anti-establishment aesthetic without much substance or explanation behind it. There were other threads of political commentary, which did not feel much more natural than the love for Bernie.

The full name of the movie “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” may leave the viewer guessing what exactly her emancipation is from: socialism maybe?

The movie does not give an answer. Worse yet, trying to puzzle it together is less satisfying than the director probably hoped for.

What the movie fails to accomplish in the arena of social satire or political commentary, it makes up in part by staying true to the “Birds of Prey” comic series.

“Birds of Prey” delivers a superhero movie with a diverse set of female characters and a subversive superhero movie at that. Though the movie representation of Harley Quinn leaves a lot to be desired, the movie succeeds in portraying a female perspective in a male-dominated genre.