I like to think I know a fulfilling amount on the history of comic book films, but if anyone can tell me the last time, we had a comic book breakup film, I’m all ears. I remember when I heard the news that Suicide Squad would feature Harley Quinn and that Margot Robbie would play her. When it broke, I instantly thought she would be the breakout character and I was right to the point where we now have a Harley Quinn solo film. But because the character was introduced on what some may see as a rocky road, I understood the uncertainty surrounding this film, but I also understood the confident attitude as well. With the baggage of Suicide Squad behind her, Margot Robbie brings out the very best in the Harley Quinn character, but I felt that the need for a stable narrative may have been a stronger goal to aim for.
You’ll be able to tell straight away that Margot Robbie has a soft spot for the character because she manages to perfectly nail the personality and traits of Harley Quinn with accurate confidence. What I thought was a good enough improvement on the character we saw in Suicide Squad is how complex her unhinged personality is. She is not like Joker, she does not simply kill people for the sake of chaos, she has the tiniest hint of a moral compass. In a scene involving a shootout at a police station, if she was still enraptured by The Joker, she’d have no trouble killing every officer, but now she’s on her own, she uses non-lethal rounds. It shows that her priorities are more controlled than her previous life with The Joker really selling her proposed arc of moving on.
Continuing with the police station scene, it can also be a great example of how well choreographed the action scenes are throughout this film. the non-lethal rounds aren’t just there for her to use, they serve the purpose of adding some colour to the scene with the rounds exploding into clouds of vibrant blues and pinks as well as colourful confetti. It goes hand in hand with fight sequences that are quite wild in nature. The fact the film has an R rating there are restrictions that the film can be released so that it can maintain a colourful film whilst also increasing the amount of blood and more mature moments.
Ewan McGregor plays the film’s main antagonist Roman Sionis, better known to comic book fans as Black Mask. This is the first time Black Mask has been brought to live-action to my knowledge and I’m also fascinated by how simple looking the character is in the comics so I was very intrigued to see what they would do with his character. From other renditions I’ve seen in other forms of entertainment, this Black Mask is a lot different. For one, both Sionis and Quinn are very charismatic, but Sionis is a little more sinister in approach. In a way, he is a fragment of the kind of chaos Joker always wanted to achieve so it’s only natural that Harley sees him as a threat.
What some may see as the make or break of this film is the presentation of the narrative. Harley has full control over the events of the film which makes sense it’s her story so it’s understandable that it would be told through her perspective and in addition to that, very quickly. We get a quick backstory in the form of animation, so we know where she is at and how she is initially dealing with her situation before moving on to a story that moves around all over the place with different stories being told before meeting in the middle. But that’s not the main dealbreaker because it’s not an uncommon thing for narratives to do, the dealbreaker is that it plays it safe by having Harley narrate the whole thing. It’s such a simple thing to do that there are moments where you wish she would shush and let the images work on their own.
I would also have liked to see a bit more exploration into Harley’s femme force of Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and GCPD Detective Renee (Rosie Perez). You don’t actually see the team up until the climactic action scene which is a shame because I was crying out for that special coming together moment that happens mostly in the middle act. Because it’s left until the very end, there’s not enough time to really know how they bounce off each other. Credit where credit is due however, all three have decent enough arcs as individuals, it’s the team-up where those arcs start to drop in importance.
The best, and fairest way I can sum up Harley Quinn’s solo antics is that the bones are there, but there’s no enough meat on them, no sturdiness. I absolutely admire Margot Robbie for completely embodying the character, she’s on her way to making this character her own, and it’s all done in a way that can be fun for everyone. However, I think the character would benefit better from a bolder narrative. In terms of simplification, this is a very hit or miss film depending on how much of a character study you’re after and if you’re looking for a lot to digest, it can be somewhat unfulfilling.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment below.
Next Time: Parasite