Maybe this is a pretty ill-advised movie, considering Suicide Squad was an absolute stinkbomb. But we can’t kid ourselves and pretend Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn wasn’t one of the only good things about that film. The few ounces of goodwill I have towards it come from her, and what she did with a script that did her no favours in return. Exactly how DC plan to play a Quinn solo movie is a mystery, particularly when their other creative endeavours since then have ignored Suicide Squad to the point where it may as well not exist.
In fact, there’s very little about DC’s recent screen adventures have got right. In the last eight years, over seven films, they’ve produced almost nothing of any value. The current hype swirling around Joker means they might have finally cracked the prestige movie market, although I remain sceptical of whether it will actually be any good (at time of writing, I have been spared from seeing the film). The DC Cinematic Universe failed in spectacular fashion, making me actually wish for the nimble storytelling of the otherwise bland MCU, its model, rival, and eventual murderer. And superhero movies – comic book movies, I should say – are running me down.
So, maybe I’m not as excited for Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) as everyone else seems to be. But, conceptually at least, it doesn’t appear to be aiming for either the world-building jumble of Suicide Squad or the one-off referendum on something-or-other, a la Joker’s reckoning with radicalised incel men. It just sounds like… a movie? For once?
Quinn, living in Gotham sans Joker or Batman, is approached by Cassandra Cain, a young girl being threatened by the city’s criminal underworld – led by Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask. Quinn, along with a team including Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress, protect Cain from the bad guys. The movie’s shooting title, incidentally, was Fox Force Five, the name of the scrapped TV pilot that was to star Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction.
Inevitably, the success or failure of this movie will overtake whether it’s any good, being as it is an all-woman team as its protagonists. Rabid detractors will likely pull a Captain Marvel and carpet-bomb sites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, products of the antichrist, with poor scores, while devotees will, as usual, place all their chips on the table for this film and this film only, rather than acknowledging its place in the history of women protagonists on screen.
Nonetheless, it would be some sweet justice for those forced to sit through three hours of macho Ubermensch heroes in Avengers: Endgame if Birds of Prey turned out to be good. And, as with all movies, it could! Its core creative team is either largely untested or a relatively new kid on the block (director Cathy Yan has never made a Hollywood movie before, and writer Christina Hodson is known almost exclusively for her work on last year’s Bumblebee); to be honest, I’d count that as something of a plus, at least in anticipatory terms. For the first time in a while with comic book films, I have no concrete expectations for this movie.