The DCEU hasn't had the smoothest journey. Many complained of needless destruction in Man of Steel. Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League were all murdered in the edit, especially the latter. Even Wonder Woman suffers from a studio mandated ending that ruins the point of the movie. However, one film in the DCEU stands above all: Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn.
Released at the start of the pandemic, Birds of Prey isn't the most successful Hollywood blockbuster. It’s a smaller-scale project that brought in a small amount of dosh. Compared to most DCEU films, it's also small in length – just 109 minutes compared to the Snyder Cut’s 242 minutes. With that said, it brings everything in quality.
Birds of Prey is the most focused and unfocused film in the DCEU
That's a subheading, for sure. In terms of its narrative structure, Birds of Prey is like navigating a maze. It's a movie that constantly goes back on itself before jumping forwards and then hoping gleefully hopping back into the “present". On your first watch, you're always sure where you are, but you're never quite sure where you're going.
Essentially, you're taken on a mental joyride by Harley Quinn and she decides when the turns arrive. While the narrative appears unfocused, it's always to make you feel closer to Quinn. Just like how Batman v Superman makes everyone sad to bring you closer to Batman, Birds of Prey makes even the most haunting exchanges at least mildly humorous.
Birds of Prey is the funniest DCEU film
It’s an irrefutable fact that Birds of Prey is hands-down the funniest DC movie. Todd Phillips' Joker character study proved you could take a character reliant on uncomfortable comedy and make them painfully unfunny. You're not the only one in pain, Arthur.
On the other hand, Harley Quinn's solo film leans hard into comedy. Also, it's not the terrible, cringe-inducing “comedy" of Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn is actually funny; she tells actual jokes! Some could say the movie leans a little too hard into its jokes; they would be wrong.
None of the film's big emotional moments are ever ruined by a joke. One crucial scene involving Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask and sidekick Mr Zsasz is one of the most horrific scenes in the DCEU. It’s a genuinely well-balanced tone.
DC's most diverse cast is also its most engaging
There was a lot of talk about how diverse the characters of Birds of Prey is before the films’ release, much to the ire of those people.
BoS has a mostly female cast including a sizable amount of PoC characters. One of the characters is a lesbian – one interaction reveals that Detective Montoya was in a relationship with Ellen Yee – and, for once, it’s just portrayed as normal.
The DCEU has always benefited from fantastic casting, and this film is no different. While some characters aren’t mirror images of their comic book counterparts, every actor is perfectly placed for these specific versions of those characters. Every actor – from Ewan McGregor to Ali Wong – are truly engaging; not a single actor is out of place.
DC's best on-screen fights are in this movie
There's only one character with superhuman abilities in Birds of Prey, and those powers are not used often. However, that doesn't mean these characters can't absolutely destroy their foes in battle. In fact, Birds of Prey features the best fight scenes in the entire DCEU.
DC has had some fantastic fights – BvS' warehouse fight immediately comes to mind. Before this movie, that warehouse would've housed the best DCEU fight forever. Birds of Prey plays different, though, and it plays hard.
John Wick director Chad Stahelski brought his stunt company 87eleven at full efficiency for Harley Quinn, and they're amazing. BoS' Police Station fight scene is such a grandiose battle that it’s wisely split into two parts so you won't get exhausted. In this movie, you quickly come under the impression that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn could devastate BvS' Batman.
Black Mask is the best villain since Ledger’s Joker
The DCEU has a decent selection of villains. Michael Shannon's Zod was great, Snyder Cut's Steppenwolf was engaging and Shazam has a cool villain, I guess. As a fan of most DCEU films, villains haven't been the strongest part of this cinematic universe. However, enter Ewan McGregor as Black Mask – so, so good.
McGregor’s Black Mask is a manic possessive – he wants everything and anything. He's a character that's constantly focused on having more things: he wants Harley Quinn and Black Canary to be his "things". The entire narrative is entangled around his need to have one specific thing at any cost.
Ewan McGregor perfectly portrays the character through his most quirky and threatening moments. McGregor's innate ability to turn on and off his boundless charisma makes every second of Black Mask's appearance a joy to watch. He's completely psychotic, but you can't look away.