DC does not have a good track record with me for it’s movies. I was not interested in seeing Birds of Prey due to the bad press that it was getting. But, I noticed something on my social media feeds. Lots of the people that I followed were saying good things about the movie. Their perspective on the movie made me go to a more neutral feeling about the movie. A series of unfortunate events put me in a foul mood and alone, so I went and treated myself to Birds of Prey in the VIP section of my local theater.
I was so wrong about this movie!
Birds of Prey is a campy, queer, woman-power, action movie that gives the audience things they didn’t know they were missing, but they were.
I love that in the opening animation we are given the story or Harley Quinn. It sums up her origins and does not leave out the character’s bisexuality. It is a quick hit, but it is there. We get this again with the character off Renee Montoya. In the Comics, she is a lesbian police detective on Gotham PD and this is kept and presented in the movie as well! Bu wait, there is more! The villains of the piece are Roman Sionis, Black Mask and Mr Zsasz. Though not specifically called out as a gay, the coding is blatant. There is a scene where Roman is speaking with Zsasz and Canary arrives. Roman completely drop the conversation to show Canary all the beautiful things that he owns and the jilted lover act that flows from Zsasz just screams bitter queen!
The movie warns you very quickly that the level of camp in this movie will rival that of the first Batman TV show. There is a scene where Harley is drowning her sorrows in liquor and forgets that her situation has changed. She is insulted by a random man with his legs propped up on a table. She has a verbal altercation with him and then promptly jumps on to his legs breaking them. Instead of screaming in pain, he screams, “You broke my legs!” From this point on, we get fourth wall breaks, quick cuts, and many of the other tools of the campy trade. A good example is a fight where the characters gather up the weapons available and Harley carries a pair of skates with her. Canary has to go rescue the kid they are protecting and looks back to see Harley skating. She looks to the kid and asks, “How did she have time for a shoe change?” They shrug and go back to fighting.
It was giving me life!
Inside all this campy queerness is still a nice message too. The audience is given a birds eye view into the difficulties of a woman leaving an abuser. Harley has to confront all the things that she would have to take on herself. In the voice-over monologue, she admits that she has returned over and over as she didn’t have the means of dealing with the issues that she would be forced to handle on her own. You get to watch as Harley overhears what her teammates say about her attempt to leave this time, that it will fail like always. They take what is a silent decision and to destroy bridges and put yourself at extreme risk to leave an abuser and write it large across the screen in the explosion of the chemical factory. This is shown again in the story of Canary as she tries to leave the service of Roman Sionis. To leave, she must risk injury and loss while embracing her inner strengths. Quite literally in the end, by using her Canary cry.
My only quibble is that this is more a Harley Quinn movie. The Birds of Prey are introduced and you are given their origins. They are wonderful on the screen and treated well, but are not the focus of the film. I would have liked to seen more time given over to these other members of the team.
I am glad I went and saw Birds of Prey and hope to see it again. We are given a group of women superheroes that are treated as something more than set-dressing. They are given power and agency without stooping to putting them in skimpy outfits. We are treated to high camp that isn’t afraid to acknowledge its own silliness.
Four Bear paws out of Four! I bearly recommend it!