Birds Of Prey

Public Enemy #1: Toxic Masculinity

Posted in Movie Reviews on February 16, 2020
Prod 73

Cathy Yan

Running Time
109 min

After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord. - IMDB

When Suicide Squad (Original Review) came out in 2016, it took the world by storm … for all the wrong reasons. So much talent both behind and in front of the camera wasted on a cereal box storyline filled with characters with the personality of my old Action Man figures or the consistency of a screaming toddler. Needless to say, one would have expected that any revisits to the source material and/or the characters, would be treated with more delicacy.

And yet Birds of Prey, in defiance the low financial returns and unfavorable critiques, decides to double down on the Suicide Squad formula. The saddest thing, however, is that it probably could’ve worked, if it had spent less time reinforcing the toxic masculinity and more time developing the stories of its characters. For a female empowerment movie, Birds of Prey seemed more concerned with preying on the toxic masculinity of men than it did with celebrating the emancipation of their female leads.

Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn, shortly after her break-up with Joker, and her attempt to make it out in the world on her own. However, with all her past misgivings and the lack of Gotham’s greatest to protect her, she’ll find out starting over ain’t ever easy. Perhaps the biggest issue with the film is that it starts out relying on the Joker (one of the most celebrated and revered characters in the DCEU) as a crutch to tell the film, but instead of progressively leaning off it like a set of training wheels, it doubles down on it. The man holds such an overbearing shadow over the film that not only does it take away the spotlight from the villain of the film (Black Mask played by Ewan McGregor) but it steals the stage from any of the other female superheroes of the team. Because of this, the film makes no sense, the story bringing all the different characters hanging on a thread of our main villain’s aspiration to obtain a diamond with bank codes so that he can …. continue being the greatest prick of Gotham? Rumor has it that originally the film’s story was supposed to do with a series of stolen personal dick pics, before being subsequently edited out before final release following audience dissatisfaction (would’ve probably made for a more interesting storyline).

This then brings me to the acting of the film: it’s incredibly cringy and rigid. Dialogues are turned into exposition set-pieces to move the story along, and the final ‘female team-up’, ultimately what the entire film is supposed to be about, is the result of a bland one-liner of ‘let’s work together to save the world’. Frustrating as well given how evident Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor poured into the personality of their characters only to have the quality diluted down by such a bad story.

The film’s redeeming quality could be said to be its cinematography and its musical scores, although even here there’s an inconsistency in quality. There are moments where there is a high production value in the montage created, especially when factoring in the visual effects and stunt coordination. However, there are others where it is painfully obvious that they are acting out of a studio set-piece. It almost seems as if they spread their budget way too thin.

Ultimately Birds of Prey is a film that was neither wanted nor will be missed – just another cog in the relentless superhero franchise machine. For everyone’s sake hopefully, they stop making these films soon, as the fatigue is starting to weigh.

In Summary

The Good
  • Pretty Production set-pieces (at times)
The Bad
  • Toxic Masculinity Overload
  • Joker overshadowing
  • Lack of Character Development