Review: ‘Birds of Prey,’ starring Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco and Ewan McGregor

February 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Margot Robbie, Ella Jay Bosco and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in “Birds of Prey” (Photo by Claudette Barius/© DC Comics)

“Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”

Directed by Cathy Yan

Culture Representation: Set in the fictional DC Comics city of Gotham, “Birds of Prey” has a racially diverse, female-centric cast of characters, ranging from heroes to villains.

Culture Clash: Harley Quinn, the story’s narrator and central character, is a supervillain who’s sometimes an ally of the heroic characters—and those ethical blurred lines can cause conflicts.

Culture Audience: “Birds of Prey” will appeal primarily to fans of comic-book-inspired movies if they are willing to tolerate this film’s preference for flashy visuals over a compelling story.

Margot Robbie, Chris Messina and Ewan McGregor in “Birds of Prey” (Photo by Claudette Barius/© DC Comics)

“Birds of Prey” is a wildly uneven action film that’s as unstable and wacky as its central character and narratorthe supervillain antihero Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), who’s stepping out of the shadow of her ex-boyfriend Joker to inflict her own brand of over-the-top mayhem. Even though the movie is called “Birds of Prey,” based on DC Comics’ all-female group of superhero crimebusters, make no mistake: Harley Quinn is the real star of the show. A more accurate title for this movie should have been “Harley Quinn Featuring Birds of Prey.”

Australian actress Robbie (who’s one of the movie’s producers and who dons a Brooklyn-ish accent for Harley) first appeared as scene-stealing Harley Quinn in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” It was inevitable that Harley Quinn would get her own movie, but Robbie performs in this film as if it’s a slapstick comedy, while the other actors take their roles in the more serious direction that almost all the other DC Comics-based movies have.

It’s that erratic tone to “Birds of Prey” that will be off-putting to comic-book purists who have been frustrated with how DC Comics-based feature films have inconsistently portrayed Gotham, which is the city of Batman, Joker, Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad. Is Gotham the dark and pessimistic world that’s on the verge of imploding from its own corruption, as seen in Christopher Nolan’s and Zack Snyder’s “Batman” movies and Todd Phillips’ “Joker”? Or is Gotham the spooky retro-noir environment of Tim Burton’s “Batman” movies? Or is it the sewage-and-chemical-infested toxic dump of “Suicide Squad”?

In “Birds of Prey,” Gotham is none of those things. It’s basically a nihilistic playground for Harley and the movie’s chief villain, the flamboyantly malicious Roman Sionis (played by Ewan McGregor, who gives the campiest performance of his career so far), a nightclub owner who wants revenge on Harley at the same time that he wants power over her. Roman, who’s also known as Black Mask, has a thing for torturing people by cutting off masks of flesh from their faces.

“Birds of Prey” is the second feature film from director Cathy Yan, who previously helmed the little-seen, independent dark comedy “Dead Pigs,” which was a critical hit when it had its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. It’s extremely rare for a director to go from a micro-budget indie for a debut movie and then get the opportunity to direct a major-studio franchise film with a blockbuster budget. And perhaps that relative lack of directing experience was a hindrance, because “Birds of Prey” has some shockingly bad continuity problems.

For example, at the beginning of a scene where Harley Quinn ends up getting chased through the streets of Gotham by determined cop Renee Montoya (played by Rosie Perez), Harley is wearing mismatched shoes: one rainbow-colored shoe with a flat heel and one light-colored shoe with a high heel. But by the end of the chase scene, Harley is wearing matching shoes: the rainbow-covered, flat-heeled shoes. A few minutes after that scene, Renee goes back to the police station with pieces of garbage in her hair and on her clothes, due to the messy chase after Harley, but in cutaway shots, the garbage that was seen in her hair just seconds earlier is now missing.

The screenplay by Christina Hodson is also fairly problematic. For starters, the story has Harley Quinn feuding with too many people. There’s Harley Quinn vs. Roman Sionis. There’s Harley Quinn vs. Renee Montoya, one of the Birds of Prey. There’s Harley Quinn vs. Cassandra Cain, the young thief who has a rare diamond that Roman wants, so Harley basically has to kidnap Cassandra to get it. (Cassandra is played by Ella Jay Bosco, in her film debut, who spends most of the movie looking shocked and scared.)

And at different points in the movie, Harley is also at odds with two of the other Birds of Prey: Dinah Lance (played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell), also known as Black Canary, a singer at Roman’s nightclub, as well as Helena Bertinelli (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), also known as Huntress, a crossbow-slinging assassin who has a mysterious past that’s revealed in the movie to also be connected to the diamond. Black Canary doesn’t start off as a hero in the movie, since her loyalties flip-flop under pressure from her boss Roman. As for Huntress, she spends most of the film as an aloof loner who’s also caught up in finding the diamond.

About that search for the diamond: It’s got to be one of the worst ideas in recent years for the main conflict in a comic-book movie. Roman wants the diamond because it supposedly will give him the power to bribe people to do what he wants. Therefore, he kidnaps Harley and forces her to get the diamond for him. It doesn’t make much sense, but neither does most of this erratic movie, which includes a random musical sequence inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” scene in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” And where the diamond ends up being hidden is like something out of an Adam Sandler movie that’s fixated on bodily functions.

Although there are some comical moments in “Birds of Prey,” other attempts at humor fall very flat. The film relies too much on flashbacks told from Harley’s point of view, and she’s not exactly a reliable or coherent narrator. The movie’s violence and stunts are very cartoonish, but the action sequences are nevertheless the best parts of the film. If you can suspend your disbelief that Harley can take down five to eight muscle-bound, usually armed men at once, just by doing a bunch of gravity-defying cartwheels, flips and spins and by swinging her baseball bat, then you’ll have fun watching this kind of spectacle. Harley even manages to mow down several bad guys while she’s wearing roller skates, thanks to her experiences playing roller derby, which is shown at the beginning of the movie.

What’s less fun is watching moments of pure tedium and ridiculousness when the characters stand around and talk in the middle of major physical showdowns with their opponents. People of “Birds of Prey”: Take a cue from John Wick. He’s not going to suddenly strike up a conversation in the middle of kicking someone’s ass.

And there are a few things that are introduced in the “Birds of Prey” movie that are underused story ideas. For example, Harley gets a hyena named Bruce (named after Bruce Wayne), but the canine is nothing more than a pet that’s left at her home and brought out for Harley to show off to visitors. In the comic books, Harley has two hyenas that have much more active roles in her adventures. Black Canary also has a special power which she could have used much earlier in the film, but she doesn’t use it until it’s almost too late.

“Birds of Prey” might look like a feel-good feminist film on the surface, but there’s a lot of mean-spirited cattiness among the women for most of the movie. They don’t join forces until almost the very end, when the movie has its best action sequence. It’s a little bit of a slog to get to that point, and the movie would have been a lot better if Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey really were a team much earlier in the story.

And although the movie has a message of female empowerment, it shouldn’t be at the expense of making almost all the men in the film to be insufferable jerks and/or criminals. And there are some cringeworthy lines in the film, such as when Harley utters, “Nothing gets a guy’s attention like violence.” All of this male-bashing is just so unnecessary. Making almost all of the men look bad in this movie is also a turnoff to people who like to see a well-rounded variety of characters of any gender.

If you’re a die-hard fan of comic-book-based movies and if you have to see “Birds of Prey,” just know in advance that although it tries very hard to capture the type of irreverent adult humor that the first “Deadpool” movie had, “Birds of Prey” is really just a female-led diamond heist movie. We already had “Ocean’s 8,” thank you very much.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” on February 7, 2020.

UPDATE: Because of the widespread coronavirus-related closures of movie theaters worldwide, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has moved up the digital release of “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” to March 24, 2020.

DC Universe announces launch; digital subscription service gives members exclusive content, including original series, merchandise, sweepstakes

June 28, 2018

(Image courtesy of DC Universe)
(Image courtesy of DC Universe)

The following is a press release from DC Universe:

DC Universe is a first-of-its-kind digital subscription service that gives fans access to exclusive content and experiences not available anywhere else. With membership, fans will enjoy all-new original live-action and animated series, classic TV series and films, a curated selection of digital comic books, breaking news, an expansive DC-centric encyclopedia, and access to exclusive merchandise. Additional fan features include opportunities to connect with others in the DC community, earn premium rewards and participate in sweepstakes and contests.

“Developing new ways for consumers to access some of our most popular and iconic brands and franchises as well as exclusive new content whenever they want, on the devices they choose, is one of our studio’s top priorities,” said Craig Hunegs, president, Warner Bros. Digital Networks. “The DC UNIVERSE platform gives fans a place to tailor their experience and build a direct relationship with DC in a way they never could before.”

Members of DC Universe can:

Watch exclusive originals and classic favorites; read from an extensive list of curated comic books; connect with the DC community; explore the latest breaking news and the ever-expanding DC encyclopedia; Win premium rewards and participate in sweepstakes and contests; shop for exclusive merchandise.

Fans can sign up today for an opportunity for beta access, which will open in August 2018. Beta access will give members a chance to test the new digital experience and provide valuable feedback on the early version of the service before it goes live later this fall 2018.

“DC Universe is so much more than a streaming service. It’s a welcoming place for everyone to immerse themselves in their own level of DC fandom, with the epic characters, stories, and experiences they have come to expect from DC,” said Jim Lee, chief creative officer and publisher, DC Entertainment. “We are investing in and creating original, high-quality shows including the new Titans series, and curating the most beloved nostalgic content, while at the same time elevating the comic reading experience to new heights. Nothing this robust has ever been offered to fans before.”

WATCH

At the heart of DC Universe will be all-new exclusive original live-action and animated series based on DC’s iconic characters. Developed by Warner Bros. Television, “Swamp Thing” and “Doom Patrol” are scheduled to debut in 2019, following the dramatic, live-action adventure series “Titans” which premieres later this year. Warner Bros. Animation is also developing a slate of animated TV series based on existing fan favorites, including “Harley Quinn” and the highly anticipated third season of the popular “Young Justice: Outsiders” animated series which are both scheduled to debut in 2019.

“Titans” follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic “Teen Titans” franchise. Dick Grayson and Rachel Roth, a special young girl possessed by a strange darkness, get embroiled in a conspiracy that could bring Hell on Earth. Joining them along the way are the hot-headed Starfire and loveable Beast Boy. Together they become a surrogate family and team of heroes.

“Doom Patrol” is a reimagining of one of DC’s strangest group of outcasts: Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Woman and Crazy Jane. Led by the mysterious Dr. Niles Caulder, they’re called into action by the ultimate hero for the digital age, Cyborg. Banding together these rejects find themselves on a mission that will take them to the weirdest and most unexpected corners of the DC Universe.

“Swamp Thing” follows Abby Arcane as she investigates what seems to be a deadly swamp-born virus in a small town in Louisiana but soon discovers that the swamp holds mystical and terrifying secrets. When unexplainable and chilling horrors emerge from the murky marsh, no one is safe.

“Young Justice: Outsiders” features the return of the fan favorite animated series with a huge cast of DC’s most iconic young superheroes – plus brand-new characters, many of whom are just discovering their unique meta-powers and special abilities. Set against the backdrop of a rich, deep world that touches all corners of the DC Universe, the season focuses on meta-trafficking, and an intergalactic arms race for control of these super-powered youths.

“Harley Quinn” follows Harley’s adventures after she breaks up with the Joker and strikes out on her own in this new adult animated comedy. With the help of Poison Ivy and a ragtag crew of DC castoffs, Harley tries to earn a seat at the biggest table in villainy: the Legion of the Doom.

An assortment of DC’s most beloved superhero films will also be available at launch for exclusive streaming windows, including all four original “Superman” movies as well as a selection of epic animated movies including “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox,” “Green Lantern: First Flight” and “Wonder Woman.” The service will also feature classic TV shows, including the first two seasons of “Batman: The Animated Series” and the original “Wonder Woman” series available for the first time in HD.

READ

The DC Universe comics reader will include native, untethered access across devices from a smartphone or tablet to a living room screen rendered in vivid detail. Fans can scroll through some of their favorite comics from the comfort of their couch with family or friends and see this vibrant art form come to life like never before. A curated selection of thousands of DC comics will be available to DC Universe members from a library that includes decades of comics creations.

Members can read some of the most famous stories in comic book history such as the first 1938 Action Comics that introduced Superman to the world as well as Detective Comics #27 which first introduced Batman in 1939. Other titles include Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s iconic “Justice League” (2011), “Swamp Thing” (2011) written by Scott Snyder, and “Harley Quinn” (2013) written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. Rotating selections will cater to both members new to comics and passionate fans looking for hard-to-find titles. Comics can also be downloaded for reading offline on a smartphone or tablet.

“We wanted the DC Universe comic reader to be a blend of art and technology that would further enhance fan’s experiences of the live-action and animated programming on DC Universe” said Dan DiDio, publisher, DC Entertainment. “This hand-curated selection from our decades of comic creations gives fans a thematic digital longbox to carry with them on the device of their choosing or lets them watch exclusive video content on a big screen followed by the comic that inspired it.”

CONNECT

The community within DC Universe will be a place where members can rate, create and share their own personalized playlists of their favorite heroes and villains. Members can personalize their profile and select their own avatar, be it Superman, Wonder Woman, or another heroic character or symbol. Designed to be a place for finding commonality and sharing favorite rivalries or the latest list of must-read comic books, members will have a forum for posting information, finding friendship and sharing their DC passions in a shared, moderated space within DC Universe.

EXPLORE & WIN

Latest news, an extensive DC encyclopedia, and chances to win round out the membership benefits of DC Universe. Short-form news, interviews and previews in daily video segments will keep fans up-to-date on the latest from all corners of the DC Universe. The ever-expanding DC encyclopedia, to which fans can contribute, will house bios of hundreds of DC characters and places. In addition, members will have chances to win premium rewards, including game unlocks, first-chance access to pop-culture events, exclusive experiences and more.

SHOP

Exclusively for DC Universe members, DC Collectibles – the award-winning line of collectibles from DC Entertainment – will offer a wide range of new action figures and collector’s items based on DC’s iconic characters and stories. Members will have exclusive access to all-new six-inch Justice League Animated action figures based on designs from the fan-favorite animated series (2001-2004), starting in fall 2018. In addition to DC Collectibles, members will have access to a wide range of exclusive, curated and hard-to-find DC merchandise from a variety of licensing partners before the rest of the world.

The operation of DC Universe will be managed by Sam Ades, general manager and senior vice president, Warner Bros. Digital Networks, based in Burbank. The digital media executive formerly served as the senior vice president, direct to consumer, for DC Entertainment, where he was responsible for creating and executing DC’s digital marketing strategy.

DC Universe will be available in the United States at launch on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV, as well as the web and mobile web. To learn more and register for an opportunity for beta access, visit dcuniverse.com and follow DC UNIVERSE on social networks including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

ABOUT DC UNIVERSE

DC Universe, launching in 2018, is a standalone digital experience designed for the DC fan. Showcasing DC’s iconic characters, DC Universe offers new original live-action and animated series, legendary films and series, and epic animated movies, as well as a fan community, a curated selection of comic books, and exclusive merchandise. DC Universe is operated by Warner Bros. Digital Networks in collaboration with DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Labs. DC Universe offers access to exclusive content and experiences not available anywhere else. To learn more, visit www.dcuniverse.com.

ABOUT DC ENTERTAINMENT

DC Entertainment, home to iconic brands DC (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Flash), DC Vertigo (Sandman, Fables) and MAD, is the creative division charged with strategically integrating across Warner Bros. and WarnerMedia. DC Entertainment works in concert with many key Warner Bros. divisions to unleash its stories and characters across all media, including but not limited to film, television, consumer products, home entertainment, and interactive games. Publishing thousands of comic books, graphic novels and magazines each year, DC Entertainment is one of the largest English-language publishers of comics in the world.

ABOUT WARNER BROS. DIGITAL NETWORKS

Warner Bros. Digital Networks (WBDN) creates, builds, and operates direct-to-consumer digital services, digital premium content, and experiences. The WBDN team is chartered with bringing together a diverse portfolio of iconic brands and innovative, exclusive premium content, focused on serving digital-first audiences. Leveraging the studio’s iconic franchises and vast library, WBDN’s portfolio includes DC Universe, DramaFever, Boomerang, and Filmstruck in partnership with Turner. WBDN also produces and distributes premium digital series through Stage 13 and Machinima and in partnership with LeBron James’ Uninterrupted and Ellen DeGeneres’ Ellen Digital Ventures. Warner Bros. Digital Networks’ premium programming and digital offerings put viewers at the center of entertainment, sports, gaming, and pop culture, reaching audiences anywhere, across any platform.

 

Wonder Woman-inspired fashion hits retail to help promote ‘Wonder Woman’ movie

May 19, 2017

Hot Topic Wonder Woman Jacket
Hot Topic Wonder Woman Jacket (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Consumer Products)

The following is an excerpt from a Warner Bros. Consumer Products press release:

As one of the world’s most iconic Super Heroes prepares for her first solo feature film—coming to cinemas worldwide June 2, from Warner Bros. Pictures, Tencent Pictures and Wanda Pictures—Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP), in partnership with DC Entertainment (DCE), celebrates Wonder Woman with an extraordinary collection of trend-driven fashion lines inspired by DC’s Amazon Warrior. From world-renowned fashion house icons to new and emerging designers, to global specialty stores and mass market retailers everywhere, WBCP’s fashion collections’ distinctive styles have been created to reflect that every woman can feel like Wonder Woman in her own right – from the catwalk to the boardroom to the playing field. And with the participation of such lines as Hero Within and Ukonic, there’s something for men of all ages who aspire to feel like Super Heroes, too.

A global cultural touchstone and beloved symbol of empowerment, justice, equality and peace for 75 years, Wonder Woman is inspiring designers from the most coveted fashion houses to lend their talents to benefit the LemLem Foundation, founded by international model and advocate Liya Kebede, whose mission is to improve African women’s lives by promoting access to healthcare and economic opportunities.

Prêt-à-porter pieces from such celebrated designers as Louis Vuitton, Versace, Givenchy, D-Squared, Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Lanvin, Roland Mouret, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, and many more, will be included in this tribute to Wonder Woman, and showcased and auctioned off during an intimate event taking place in Paris, France, on June 7, with all proceeds going to the LemLem Foundation.

An array of designs inspired by Wonder Woman’s unparalleled power, beauty and grace will also be available to the fashion world and fans worldwide as WBCP partners with admired designers and brands to offer up a dynamic lineup of limited-edition collections – from high-end to fast-fashion and everything in between – allowing trendsetters everywhere to channel their inner DC Super Hero.

Collaborations inspired by the effortless style of Wonder Woman, embodied in the film by Gal Gadot, have followed suit, empowering women to take on each day by expressing their own personal style. Collections include the innovative athleisure wear from nuyu, bringing consumers an elevated, luxe and chic performance-fitness line, while Under Armour celebrates Wonder Woman with the roll-out of sleek, high performance wear for every strong woman.

Men’s style is also celebrated with outerwear collections from high-end labels such as Hero Within designed by influential Comic-Con blogger Tony Kim, emerging brand Ukonic, breaking-out in the ecommerce space; to fan-favorite collectibles like New Era, and mass-market licensees including Bioworld, inspiring men of all ages who aspire to feel like Super Heroes, too.

As Wonder Woman is well-known for her iconic silver gauntlets and gold headdress, WBCP has also teamed up with leading accessory and jewelry brands to create fashion-forward bracelets, headbands and more. Nanette Lepore Brand and A Classic Time Watch Co. showcase Wonder Woman’s timelessness with an extravagant watch collection, while Love and Madness offers consumers accessories designed and crafted entirely by women. Contemporary jewelry brand ALEX AND ANI also offers a line of jewelry and highly collectible charm bracelets.

In addition to exclusive boutique stores, WBCP is ensuring accessibility of Wonder Woman-inspired fashion collections all over the world by teaming up with top global and mass market retailers.  Best-in-class retail partner GAP continues its global collaboration with WBCP in a capsule collection inspired by the attributes of the iconic DC Super Hero and the film for women, girls, toddlers and babies.  Kohl’s will feature an exclusive first-ever DC-inspired Her Universe active wear collection for young women and the young at heart, from juniors to plus sizes.  Pop-culture hub Hot Topic brings on a fan-dedicated Her Universe apparel collection in-stores and online—designed for fans by fans—as Her Universe assembled the unique creative team behind this DC Super Hero-inspired collection through a unique design contest held at last year’s International Comic-Con in San Diego; as well as the online retail store for Torrid, which will also have the WW collection in plus sizes.  WBCP has also partnered with elite partners, including Mauritius, with its fierce leather jacket collection, from biker jackets to suede and metallic jackets and more; and boutique stores such as Ron Robinson at Fred Segal offering a nuyu-inspired vignette; and Kyle by Alene Too, which will feature a Wonder Woman-themed array of apparel and accessories from established and emerging designers, including a collection of never-before-seen designs from up-and-coming designers that will be featured in the store.

Whether in action or at rest, fans everywhere can channel their inner Wonder Woman in film-inspired apparel and accessories, sleepwear and daywear, jewelry and so much more. Unique style-seekers can also capture exclusive items from HSN as the leading entertainment and lifestyle retailer offers its devoted customers and Wonder Woman fans a unique collection of apparel and accessories, jewelry, personal care products and more, including a special collection exclusive to this collaboration from Benefit Cosmetics with a five-piece unique set, and inspired accessory pieces from American whimsical designer Betsey Johnson.  The collection will launch on HSN on June 1 at 9 p.m. EDT, marking HSN’s first-ever partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products as part of a strategic alliance to elevate awareness surrounding the film’s release while introducing new collections that inspire fans.

WBCP is thrilled to be able to collaborate with all of our retail and licensing partners to create Wonder Woman-inspired fashion statements that support the Amazon Warrior’s strength, beauty and grace, empowering fans and fashion around the world.

“Wonder Woman” hits movie theaters around the world June 2, 2017, when Gal Gadot returns as the title character in the epic action adventure Wonder Woman.  The film also stars Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Elena Anaya.

Patty Jenkins directed the film from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, based on characters from DC Entertainment.  Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston.  The film was produced by Charles Roven, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Richard Suckle, with Stephen Jones, Geoff Johns, Wesley Coller, Jon Berg and Rebecca Steel Roven serving as executive producers.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Tencent Pictures and Wanda Pictures, an Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual production, Wonder Woman.  The film is scheduled for release worldwide beginning June 2, 2017, and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.