The most intriguing aspect of the ever expanding galaxies like Marvel and DC, for our neck of the woods, is how movies beyond the poster protagonists – or antagonists – are being received here. Where a multitude of Marvel releases have done exceedingly well in Pakistan as well, DC’s results have also echoed the reception that the films have received globally. However, with Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) superhero flicks have entered uncharted waters.
In the most simplistic terms Birds of Prey is a film about getting over a breakup. However, while that might be said sardonically, the film’s true essence lies in the creation of a female-centric movie that actually challenges those very tropes that limit women in screenplays to their relations with a man.
That man might very well be Joker, Gotham City’s most acclaimed bad guy, but the film kicks off with the self-realization for Harley Quinn that she can no longer afford to rely on anyone else, and has to do it all her own self, her own way – both in the screenplay and in the latest offering designed to expand the franchise.
However, as is quite often the case with films that take the admirable route of female fronted storylines, there are loopholes in many facets that could have easily been avoided.
Far too often, filmmakers believe that by pulling off the bare minimum of depicting a feminist project their job is already done, and end up ignoring basics that they – perhaps! – might not have done otherwise. This, in a bizarre twist of double irony, turns out to be an involuntary form of misogyny, if you really want to engage in brownie-hunting virtue-signaling!
Even so, the point here is that making more women-centered movies is the bare minimum that the global film industries can do, and when we dissect the final product, we’ll be using the same tools that we would otherwise.
This is not to suggest at all that Birds of Prey doesn’t work – quite the contrary, in fact. The above expressed frustration, in fact, is owing to how many levels the film could actually have gone up, had certain amount of care been taken in specific areas.
Birds of Prey, following up from 2016’s Suicide Squad, is Harley Quinn’s (Margot Robbie) self-narrated, action-packed, super crazy ride, where she is joined by Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).
At the other end of the spectrum is Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) and Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), with all the characters forming an eccentric mélange on the screenplay which is just as wild as its principal character.
Margot Robbie absolutely steals the show with her performance, which simply cannot be faulted. The rest of the cast support her ably, and ensure that the film ranks high on the entertainment coefficient.
The obvious strength of the film is its humour and action, with the former always being accelerated when Harley Quinn is around. However, in the latter’s case – to elaborate the point made earlier in this piece – where the optics are sensational, what has clearly been missed out – glaringly, in a couple of instances – is working on making the action scenes more believable. Of course, we’ll be rooting for who you want us to, and we’ll almost always be knowing how it will end up, but it is always so much better if the sequence depicts a struggle – ideally a plausible one – before the expected outcome transpires.
The film is great fun, especially for the buffs of the franchise, but one just can’t help but wonder how it could have been so much better.