Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) debuted this weekend to critical success, albeit a lower box office return that was projected. The film is centered on Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) striking out on her own after breaking up with the Joker. When she loses the immunity that her relationship granted her, she finds all of the enemies that she’s made over her career of crime in Gotham are coming out of the woodwork and none more terrifying than Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), Black Mask and his lackey, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). But she isn’t the only one in his path, which brings her, Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) together to save a teen, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).
With multiple members of our site heading to the theater we wanted to collect their thoughts on the latest film from WB and DC.
What did you expect going into the movie? Hopes? Fears?
Kate: I love action films, and from the trailers, it looked like Birds of Prey was going to lean heavily into it – especially with the R-rating. I was worried that it would go the way of Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and Charlie’s Angels — not trusting its female leads to handle the stunt work and relying on heavy editing, “empowering songs,” and excessive slow motion. I was also worried that the ensemble would feel empty given that the film is billed as an ensemble film with its title and marketing.
CJ: My Hopes were for an ensemble film that actually felt like a proper ensemble and not “The Harley Quinn Show featuring a random grab bag of DC heroines.” I also wanted to be entertained, as this film looked absurd in all the best ways. My biggest fear was with how Black Canary would be portrayed.
Jason: I didn’t have many expectations. I liked Harley in Suicide Squad but don’t like basically anything else about the least however many years of DC movies, so my expectation was low. If anything, I figured it would be better than Suicide Squad just because it had a clearly different creative direction and voice, so I wasn’t expecting the worst at least.
Cidnya: I was only expecting a fun, female lead action film. I kept seeing how Margot Robbie was using her power and privilege to make sure this ensemble flick could be the best it could be. Hearing that many of the stars were reading a lot of comics for their characters, I was sure that I would be in for a passion-filled Comic Book Movie.
Lizzy: I honestly was not sure what to expect other than a wild ride. The marketing intrigued me but very little about the characters, other than Harley, felt true to their comic book roots so I knew I would have to have an open mind.
Ian: I honestly didn’t know what to expect with Birds of Prey. This was the first of multiple Harley Quinn movies that DC and Warner announced in the wake of Suicide Squad’s financial success. Harley was among the very few things I liked out of Suicide Squad and I was excited to see where they would take her character next. I was also confused by her inclusion in Birds of Prey though, see that she’s had nothing to do with the team prior to the film. Out of everything that’s been announced with Harley, I was more excited about Gotham City Sirens. After seeing the second trailer, I was expecting this to be the DCEU’s answer to Deadpool.
Who was your favorite character?
Kate: This is Harley’s film. While each character gets some depth and has scenes that do a great job of allowing them shinning moments, Robbie’s acting is phenomenal. Every scene, every blink, pause, and fast-talking diagnosis fits the Harley I know and fell in love with. Now, I’ve changed from not liking Robbie as Harley to seeing her as the only person who should play the character.
CJ: Without a doubt, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary. I’ve loved Dinah Lance ever since I watched Justice League Unlimited as a teenager, and my biggest hope was that this film captured the heart and the badassery inherent in the character. I’m happy to report that Smollett-Bell delivers on all fronts.
Jason: Probably Huntress. I love her deadpan. It upsets me that she doesn’t have more lines in the movie. Her total lack of social ability is endearing and I think if they make a true Birds of Prey movie she’ll be the low-key breakout of that movie with how funny she is.
Cidnya: Harley Quinn as done by Margot Robbie is perfect for this role. She never felt inauthentic. Her portrayal from her dialogue to her mannerisms felt like I was reading her New 52 run. She was brilliant and I loved every second of her on-screen.
Lizzy: Robbie knocked it out of the park and this is the Harley I wanted when I saw Suicide Squad. Robbie’s passion and love of the character bled through into her performance. That being said, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress stole the show for me. I will always have a special place in my heart for archers.
Ian: That’s a tough one. They’re all great! If I have to pick one, Black Canary. Jurnee Smollett-Bell knocked it out of the park with the role. Her humor, attitude, and just being an all-around bad-ass really helped make the film memorable.
What was your favorite part?
Kate: The action in Bird of Prey is incredible. With Yan’s long shots during fights, she lets her actresses and their stunt women kickass and trusts them to execute the choreography from John Wick’s Chad Stahelski, Jon Valera, and Jonathon Eusebio. But of it all, the fights in the police station take the cake. From glitter rounds and bean bags as she enters the station to fighting in sprinklers and finally the evidence room fight which holds the John Wick crew’s signature fight choreography that shows Harley using her entire body and the things around her to fight off bikers. I can go on all day about this film but in all the action, the choice to let the women keep the wounds from their fights is yet another piece that makes this stand above other films in the genre.
CJ: For me, it definitely has to be the scene where Harley is ambushed by thugs in the GCPD evidence warehouse and ends up inhaling cocaine. This is a scene that you could only pull off with Harley Quinn, and as Kate said above, the choreography is stellar. That and using “Black Betty” by Spiderbait make it a standout scene.
Jason: Probably the awkward fist bump at the end. But also just the entire Amusement Mile sequence, it’s SO well choreographed and shot. Also, the fact that Harley voted for Bernie is A+.
Cidnya: After all was said and done, the girls went to have tacos. I loved this scene because we witnessed amazing chemistry between Huntress, Renee, Black Canary, and Harley. The fun friendship dynamic felt real and authentic. The humor was well balanced and made me realize how much fun I had with this movie.
Lizzy: The final fight sequences featuring all of the leading ladies taking on Roman’s men. The fight choreography was on beat with the music, had a lot of humor, and felt as fantastical as the characters on screen. Birds of Prey was over the top and not afraid to lean into that, the final fight sequence is a perfect example.
Ian: Definitely the final two fights. The team finally coming together and taking on Black Mask’s goons was nothing but absolute fun. The fighting was super well choreographed, the shots were great, the music was right, and it managed to make sure I had a smile on my face all the way through.
What could it have done better?
Kate: This is less about what the film could have done better and more about what the marketing of the film could have done better. While I love the film, the one thing I can’t over is the fact that it’s named Birds of Prey. This is a Harley story that also introduces the Birds of Prey which makes the subhead of the title “And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” could have been the title. It’s Harley’s film, but that isn’t a bad thing, the marketing just sets expectations differently.
CJ: Of all the characters in the movie I feel like Huntress got the short end of the stick. She has a fairly intriguing backstory, but her characterization more or less boils down to “angry archery girl.” I feel like Winstead could have been utilized more, or bounced off Harley more.
Jason: The movie should just have been called The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn and been a backdoor pilot for a Birds of Prey Spinoff.
Cidnya: This film is a great cinematic debut for the Birds of Prey, however, this is a Harley Quinn film. Harley is used as a way to introduce these characters and it’s a title just doesn’t sit right with what we saw. The movie is great but it’s not a Birds of Prey film.
Lizzy: I don’t know if it is the movie itself so much as the marketing decisions around it. This shouldn’t have been billed as a Birds of Prey movie, because it isn’t. It is missing Oracle and even within the film itself, these women aren’t a team until the final scene before the closing credits. This is the Harley Quinn show featuring a strong cast of characters around her and that is ok, but it needs to be marketing as such.
Ian: Probably the marketing. Why was Harley Quinn in this again? Even though the movie is about and titled Birds of Prey, it’s still treated as Harley’s movie first and foremost. The Birds of Prey get the short end of the stick in their own movie. It’s more The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn that it is Birds of Prey.
Where do you hope the story goes after this?
Kate: I fell in love with both Black Canary and Renee Montoya. While I have always loved them in the comics, I love how they were brought to life and I can’t wait to see more of them in a stand-alone capacity separate from Harley.
CJ: I’d like to see a sequel give more depth to Huntress, and showcase Black Canary’s leadership skills. Also, I’d love for Renee Montoya to take up the mantle of the Question.
Jason: Let’s get a for-real Birds of Prey from here bringing in Oracle/Batgirl and I don’t know who’s missing but yeah, that. Also, I so want to just skip that James Gunn Suicide Squad movie and have something different but with all the same cast. Can we get that? Taika Waititi is in it and that’s basically the only reason I have any semblance of interest in it. ALSO how about a Harly/Ivy BFFs story?
Cidnya: I am excited to hopefully see the Birds of Prey in their own film. I would love that care and passion used for Harley’s character to be showcased in their own sequel.
Lizzy: Bring in Jason Todd. The beauty of where this movie ended is that these women are anti-heroes, no one here is auditioning for the Justice League. With that in mind, the squad of badass ladies should bring in more anti-heroes and who better to take on Gotham’s next big baddie than Todd who in the comics literally takes over the biggest gang territories and makes it his own all while keeping citizens safe.
Ian: I’d love to see more Black Canary in the DCEU’s future. I’m also really interested in seeing where Harley goes from here. I just hope Gotham City Sirens has a different feel to it from Birds of Prey.
One-sentence movie review:
Kate: Glitter bombs, f-bombs, and so much ass-kicking make for a near-perfect first outing for the Birds of Prey. 9/10
CJ: Birds of Prey is a bloody, bombastic glitter bomb of a movie, packed full of great fight scenes and the antics only a movie about Harley Quinn could deliver. 8/10
Jason: I saw this movie twice, back to back and I liked it both times, which says a lot because I don’t like seeing movies more than once within a few months usually. 7/10
Cidnya: Birds of Prey is a fantastical and fun female-led and female-directed action flick that doesn’t hold back on its grit and violence. 8/10
Lizzy: Birds of Prey is a wild ride with a strong cast of strong and interesting characters. This is the perfect movie for Galentine’s Day. 9/10
Ian: Birds of Prey is one hell of a ride with great action, strong humor, a killer soundtrack, and further showcasing DC’s bright future on the big screen. 8.5/10
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Birds of Prey is one hell of a ride with great action, strong humor, a killer soundtrack, and further showcasing DC’s bright future on the big screen.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.