As Todd Phillips‘ take on the Joker sparks a conversation over what superhero movies can do and be, Warner Bros. readies what looks to be another revisionist approach to the comic-book genre. If a DC Cinematic Universe movie can take the shape of a Scorsese knock-off, then who’s to say it can’t also transform into a candy-colored fantasia of eternal juvenalia?
That’s the preliminary impression for Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the unabridged title of the new spin-off foregrounding Margot Robbie‘s screwloose villainess. She turns quasi-hero in this film, leading a squadron of vigilantes against the criminal element of Gotham, in particular the nefarious boss known as the Black Mask (Ewan McGregor, visibly enjoying herself).
A sense of purpose along gender lines separates the lethal Birds of Prey from the likes of the Avengers, all of their members being women seeking “emancipation” from men who have wronged them. In this incarnation, the Jared Leto-played Joker has gone splitsville with Harley and is nowhere to be seen, leaving her to violently process her feelings via her rampage of justice.
The trailer situates itself in a register of cheery brutality, playing its scenes of combat more like a Tom and Jerry short than the big-budget studio tentpole standard. That applies to Harley’s overall attitude, which splits the difference between the childlike and girlish — she wants to order pizzas! — to the dangerously unstable. Imagine if Lisa Frank partnered with Hot Topic for a line of rainbow studded dog collars, and you’re just about getting there.
She and her crew of distaff ass-kickers represent a fantastical alternative to the super-mainstream, and the film matches their eccentric energy with a pet hyena, cartoonish testicle stompings, and a full-blown recreation of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” giving Robbie the chance to stretch her range farther than ever.
Birds of Prey comes to cinemas in the UK and US on 7 February, 2020.
Published 1 Oct 2019
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