By Socrate Kiabala
The DC Universe’s latest cinematic offering, Birds of Prey (and The Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn), had certainly been the enigma since it hit cinemas two weeks ago. While it was by no means a box office bomb, it didn’t do the numbers everyone from DC to critics to comic book fans initially expected. So much so that the cinema chains went on damage control by changing the title in the hopes of improving its box office gross, which… isn’t much better.
If you managed to look beyond the subjective flop, you would find that Birds of Prey isn’t actually that bad. It’s shown from the perspective of Harley Quinn, the Joker’s number-one fan, former psychologist and the narrator of her own story. Half of the film’s title comes from her finding herself, self-worth and emancipation after a breakup with the green-haired rogue, as she finds that her time with the Joker gave her diplomatic immunity. The film does take a bit of its time getting to the actual plot as the first half-hour is devoted to Harley out-running almost everyone she had previously wronged. I say almost, because the film’s antagonist, Roman ‘Black Mask’ Sionis, crosses paths with her and lets her go on the condition she brings him a valuable diamond.
Sure enough, the plot truly takes off when Harley bumps into Cassandra Cain, a young pickpocket who unwittingly steals the diamond and disposes of it in a peculiar manner when she is caught red-handed. Although she tries to get the diamond out of her, they do eventually bond. This relationship counts as one of the film’s high points. In the meantime, the audience gets a few glimpses of the titular Birds of Prey, all of whom happened to be connected to Sionis, as their individual scenes and backstories indicate. While them reconvening with Harley and Cassandra in time for the final showdown is supposed to feel rewarding, it just feels like a moment where viewers find themselves saying ‘it’s about time’.
Even in this progressive environment, producing a female-dominated superhero film, let alone a female-dominated superhero film revolving around a villain, is a slight gamble that can push away potential viewers in the periphery demographic. While Birds of Prey may look like a victim of such circumstances, its relative underperformance makes it a victim of miscarriage of justice. It is easy to start viewing this film under the belief the plot will take a certain path, only to be mildly surprised by the final result. Otherwise, it’s a fun and enjoyable experience. As long as you keep your expectations low, try not to assume they will be subverted at one point and expect no surprises, you may find that Birds of Prey is worthy of whatever praise it has been receiving recently.