The original “Suicide Squad” was one of the only movies I can remember ever wanting to legitimately walk out of halfway through. The awful writing, ugly cinematography, and nauseating editing combined to create one of the worst theatergoing experiences I’ve ever had, and I can confidently say that it’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever watched in my life. So with that being said, it’s safe to say I wasn’t exactly looking forward to “Birds of Prey.” And while a lot of the same problems from Suicide Squad carry over into this movie, it wasn’t nearly as soul-crushing as the original. However, that’s not much of a compliment when compared to absolute garbage, and Birds of Prey is by no means a great movie. Hell, I wouldn’t consider it good, or even average to be honest. The entire film feels like it’s being crushed under the weight of its awful editing, and even with some solid and fun performances, the plot is so messy and unfocused that it simply starts to become irritating.
Similar to its violent R-rated superhero parody counterpart “Deadpool,” Birds of Prey inherits an extremely strange nonlinear story structure for the first half, with various plot points being explained through flashbacks, most of which interrupt scenes that already have too much going on. The pacing of this movie is downright awful, and I owe that to the fact that Birds of Prey is trying to be “too cute” with the way its story is delivered. I understand that telling a story from the perspective of Harley Quinn would realistically be an extremely messy, overexaggerated, and incomprehensible narrative but just because something is true to the source material doesn’t mean it’s actually entertaining to watch. It’s not like the story is really all that complicated to begin with. In fact, it’s pretty much as generic as they come. Bad guy has a diamond stolen from him, tells Harley Quinn she has to get the diamond or he’ll kill her, other characters want the diamond too, big fight scene at the end, cut to credits.
The problem with this is that the fact that the film is constantly overcompensating for its simplistic plot with its nonsensical interruptive flashbacks, some of which are what feels like over 10 minutes long, leaving the audience feeling like they’ve just hit a brick wall when the flashback suddenly cuts back to reality. Birds of Prey also follows Suicide Squad’s mistake in attempting to introduce an entire cast of colorful superhero characters within the same movie, one of which (Huntress) feels completely out of place and doesn’t serve much purpose in the overall narrative. Most of these characters are basically just bystanders in the main Harley Quinn plot up until the end of the movie where they all decide to team up. Not because they’ve grown to like each other or have even developed as a group in any way, but simply because if they don’t, they’ll all get gunned down by masked goons.
At least the violence in this movie was actually somewhat satisfying to watch, unlike Suicide Squad’s endless battles against awful generic faceless blob-monsters. In Birds of Prey, people get shot, maimed, stabbed, run over, and have their legs broken constantly throughout the movie, giving it a very Deadpool vibe (though not nearly as graphic). The colorful aesthetic is also a welcome change from DC’s standard overly-dramatic, gloomy, miserable atmosphere. If nothing else, Birds of Prey certainly feels like a movie straight out of a comic book. However, there are definitely certain aspects of the “goofy” filmmaking that are extremely overused, slow motion being the biggest one that comes to mind. I swear, every fight scene in this movie has at least one or two slow motion shots of someone getting kicked, smashed in the face, or flipped over onto their heads. It’s fun at first but wears off quick. Especially when certain fight scenes have over 5 slow motion scenes of the same Harley Quinn kick-to-the-face maneuver.
In terms of overall positives, the best thing Birds of Prey has going for it is definitely the performances. Margot Robbie continues to be the best part of these movies, and it’s pretty clear she has a real passion for the character of Harley Quinn and loves playing her on screen. Ewan McGregor also has an extremely fun energy to him and even though he’s mostly just chewing the scenery, damn does he make it work. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has some funny one liners as the fish-out-of-water character but she’s not really in the movie long enough to get invested in. Jurnee Smollett-Bell does a fine job too, though her character is also pretty understated and is basically just along for the ride the entire movie. Unfortunately, the worst performance by-far is from Ella Jay Basco, as she just kind of feels completely wooden throughout. I guess you can’t expect a ton of acting chops from child actors in movies like these, but for someone who has far more screen time than any of the other supporting cast, it’s difficult to ignore. Maybe I’m just spoiled from the quality of the “Stranger Things” kids.
All in all, Birds of Prey isn’t an absolute garbage fire like its predecessor, but it wasn’t great either. It’s certainly not above average for a superhero movie, and there are so many plot holes and weird editing missteps that it became difficult to take the movie seriously near the halfway point. I could barely keep myself interested in these characters as it neared the conclusion, and after the final fight scene elongated into an over-the-top car chase, I just wanted the movie to end. Birds of Prey has some good performances and an admirable visual style, it just fails to evolve the superhero movie in any meaningful way, and the absolutely atrocious pacing and editing made the film feel like pure agony at times. Is it better than Suicide Squad? Sure. Is it a good movie? Not really.
3/10 – Bad