Once again I am faced with the task of writing about a movie with so many points of interest it is hard to know where to begin. HQ:BoP has quite a myriad of issues and that is truly a shame for a film that genuinely was not that bad. In fact, compared to other DC movies I would rank it above Wonder Woman which was, prior to this release, their best made film.
To begin this sordid tale I must discuss the ridiculous way in which the movie was marketed. This movie is tragically a spinoff of a spinoff, the unexpected child of the half baked Suicide Squad, a movie that is not only a critical failure but is set to be retconned in the already muddied and incompetently cobbled together DCCU. From the outset it was in a precarious place, so for some reason, someone somewhere in the production pipeline decided this movie should be called Birds of Prey. My natural assumption was that they intended to distance the film, at least in name, from its sordid tie-in to an immensely confusing number of Batman and Joker related content coming out, but then the words Harley Quinn were added to it. Now the official word is that the film is not named Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, but simply Birds of Prey, the Harley Quinn is just there to make the movie easier to search for… so that is the title if one were to Google search it or order tickets online… but it’s not the actual name of the movie. To say that makes less than no sense would be a gross understatement.
To try and unravel this nonsense; this film is meant to be about Harley Quinn, from Batman, but not as part of the Nolan series, nor is she connected the recently released Joker movie. She’s from the Suicide Squad that came out, but not a part of the one that is about to come out, and has no ties to the new DC show Harley Quinn that is about the exact same events in Harley’s life. In summary, this film is and is not called Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey and is connected to the only movie in the DCCU that is about to be yeeted out of existence. Thinking critically for a moment, what made anyone think an audience of any involvement level would be able to understand what was going on with this movie without a ton of research? Who would want this many shackles on the ankles of their niche movie? I have no idea, but let’s move on.
Next, I must mention the movie’s greatest failing which was its incessant need to be pro-women at the cost of nuance. What I mean is, if at any point in a big, Girls-Gonna-Do-What-the-Boys-Can’t film the song It’s a Man’s World is used the movie may as well stop and put up a Tumblr post about women’s suffrage for how ham-fisted it is with its message. Way too on the nose music, an abundance of ball kicks, every villain in everyone’s individual storyline being a man; these are ways to go too far with a girl-power story, even one of these can undercut the point being made in irreparable ways.
Sadly the least of this movie’s problems was its plot, it was by no means perfect, but serviceable and the writing was clever and interesting enough to carry the viewer over a few of the logical inconsistencies. As mentioned before I would call this one of the better DC films, by that metric I would give it a solid B and even without that grading curve I would still give it a C. The pacing was unusual, but that was fine given that it was narrated by Harley Quinn herself and she is quite unusual. It did a decent job of showcasing the fact that Harley was once, in fact, a psychiatrist and is quite well educated and capable of diagnosing those around her and even herself should she choose. The movie showed a side of the character that is rarely explored, however, it is late to the game because Harley Quinn (the DC Universe show) does this far better and makes better use of the characters that populate the Batman universe. This could easily be down to the amount of time each medium has to work with, but in the end, the animated Harley Quinn show manages to outdo this movie at every angle and it is quite unfortunate for the film when the two are compared.
What’s even more unfortunate is that both of these solid stories about one of the most misrepresented DC characters both suffer from being virtually unknown. One because of a very disastrous combination of bad affiliations, a confusing naming convention, and a poor release schedule and the other because it is locked away behind DC’s premium streaming service that only the most devout DC fan would even consider purchasing.
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey was a decent film that needs to cut ties with the current DCCU, get a decent promotion and be released before the television show.
A time machine.
This movie needs to get in a time machine and be released three years ago with exactly one name and it would likely receive the accolades it so desperately desires.