IR Film Review: BIRDS OF PREY (& The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) [Warner Brothers]
The trajectory of “Birds Of Prey (& The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn”) is visualizing the identity of Harley Quinn and her journey to become that whom she truly is. The movie tries in earnest to portray this road of discovery in Quinn’s own special way which is undeniably entertaining and edgy in its own bizarro progression. The iteration at least for the for the first 2/3rds of the film is day glow brilliance and breakneck. While creative flourishes and structure is dynamic and interesting, sometimes the style of the film intrinsically does not keep up with the pace. Robbie knows her character in and out and doesn’t shy away from the character’s faults. Quinn still loves Mr. J but he unceremoniously throws her away for undisclosed reasons. She starts acting out logically (and at times illogically) which is where most of the fun comes from. Quinn (and Robbie) knows she is a clinically trained psychiatrist who has gone bonkers and boy crazy for Mr. J so it is an interesting paradox. While her journey to find her crew is important, it is not the goal. There is peeks of tenderness and at times hurt underneath Quinn’s brilliant smile. Robbie shows peeks of it but there is not so much dramatic tendency as there could be.
When the plot takes over about 3/4s of the way through, the film veers into more standard territory where it might have been interesting to see it in a nihilistic way or a trip that only happens in Quin’s head. It is a fun ride, more dynamic and entertaining than “Suicide Squad” but still is not fully exceptional. The only issues is that at times it feels, in a weird way, like a TV movie and not a film, which is not an insult since alot of TV is cinematic but it is missing a certain kernel that would make it jump more. The other Birds Of Prey per se are very apt with Mary Elizabeth Winstead making the most impact as Huntress. Her O-Ren stylings are great but Winstead plays her less cool and more odd in a way which is a creative choice but one which could have been amped. The reality is that none of the other Birds per se can shine a candle to Harley. There is a Moulin Rouge/Madonna ode of sorts at one point which is cool considering Ewan in the scene is a direct reference to that seminal movie of 20 years ago. Ewan has a bit of fun playing the flamboyancy of his baddie character who ultimately is the Black Mask. But despite the flourishes the character is inherently one dimensional with the weight of the villain having as much structure as Sam Rockwell’s captain in “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”…fun to watch without much motivation beyond simple carnage. Even Tyler Durden had an ethos.
Ultimately “Birds Of Prey” wraps around to the true nature of Harley Quinn which a loner with a soft spot who likes to get in trouble. At one point, she steals a gas filled truck drunk and runs it into Axis Chemicals. It is a multi tiered point both freeing, tragic, nihilistic and wonderfully lurid which is all the aspects that Harley Quinn should be. Even though it runs at throttle those at this and other points, the film reaches its zenith only rarely but not as a full fledged blow out.
By Tim Wassberg
The essence of conflict and what constitutes the greater good is embodied in the ideals of what characters believe is right from their point of view. Whether it is Warlock seeking the balance his life or Norman Osborn trapped in the identity of someone he is not, perception is in the eyes of the reader and not the beholder in many of these cases.
The New Mutants: War Children #1 The ideal behind this new series is the aspect of paranoia within. While the texture of friendship looms heavily, the personage of Warlock is propelled to destroy his friends. It is an interesting progression in the character between logic and emotion with Doug, his main friend, finally bringing him back from the brink as a variation of a symbiote overtakes various members of the force. The visuals are motley and visceral though the specific art depicting Warlock and the accompanying lettering are the most telling specifically in the progression of emotions.
Fearless #3 This series continues to bring together the different women superheroes in the Marvel Universe. The first story has some of the women including Captain Marvel speaking at a girls’ camp when one of the kids comes up with an intergalactic beacon. Danvers, of course, plays it off but it is Invisible Woman who seems to understand the stakes. The 2nd story in the issue is more dynamic because it has a sense of consequence. It follows Hellcat as she tries to control her life without being pulled back in to her ex-husband and family’s expectation in hell. She however becomes a role model to a younger demon which is an interesting paradox. The final story with Jubilee and Wolverine is more of an afterthought but the color palette makes it stand out undeniably.
Spider-Man Velocity #2 This series and this issue specifically works more as a concept piece in terms of the notion of speed and perception. Spider and MJ can’t seem to understand the idea of this faster-than-the-eye superhero that always seems to evade Spidey. Once he recognizes what Velocity’s tell is it becomes a fairly basic storyline. The idea of a seance and the comedy that arises out of it feels more Bill & Ted than Spider-Man but the tone works overall even until the conclusion of the issue when the cat is seemingly out of the bag.
Black Panther #16 This issue continues an interesting parallel of the ideals of Wakanda Prime versus a new outpost on an inter-dimensional planet that has become completely juxtaposed by the mercenary dealing of the people in charge. That texture is never quite fully seen in this issue but the archetypal political structure it presents is undeniable and interesting to be sure which includes an older activist who seems to be goading people to revolution. This definitely has ramifications in science since it plays into the dividing perception of T’Challa as The Orphan King, In the end of the issue, the action tends to overtake the story which is too bad because the narrative dynamic is enough to sustain the progression without a large fight.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Absolute Carnage #30 This series issue really specifically moves in with the idea of identity and its perception in the world of symbiotes. While elements like Venom have their own way of balancing to a point inside its host, the story here with Carnage takes on a different personification with Norman Osborn believing he is the original host and losing all sense of self while he seemingly also rots inside his mind in a straight jacket. It is an interesting visual metaphor that is undeniable and keeps consistent to the very end of the issue which is commendable. some of the art which includes the almost ripping of s ymbiote from its host really plays into the concept of the ID as the character battle against their own specific demons.
By Tim Wassberg
The storylines reflected in this series speaks to the element of choices made whether it be Professor X moving towards the aspect of mutant oversight or Blade deciding what might be better for lesser Avengers. The perspective of what might be right for one might not be right for the other and the thematics and well as the actions of the characters in these tales bely this.
Power Of X #5 The undeniable structure of Professor X and his present mind moves in circles of thought and looks, like Dr. Strange, at every possible outcome. The bigger picture that he and Magneto continue to personify is the aspect of a segregated mutant population. This is distinctly grown by what X wants Cerebro to do in this issue which is inherently back up every mutant’s brain which can itself create sentience. In this issue, the reader is shown the jumps in evolution which seems both visionary and esoteric at the same time. The allusion to the Titans and the essence of black holes being the next stage of being in creating a singularity is a thought process partially brought to bear in “Interstellar”. The main quandary is an almost closed minded view in terms of humanity which motivates X in the first place. The progression is almost existential which is an interesting story construct but it depends where it ends up.
Thanos #6 Gamora’s relationship with her adopted father Thanos has always been skewed in many different ways. It is alluded to in certain ways in the films but in this small series, Gamora has brought her father to the edge of space as a child in an attempt to kill him. In her mind, she knows that nothing she will ever do will allow that to happen. In fact it is more of a power play that reflects in Magus as a harbinger of death. Thanos has a control of will over his daughter so much so at he says that Gamora will kill Magus when it is the right time. Whether that is to maintain her innocence or instill a sense of patience or fate is to be discussed. The resolution of how she interacts with a reborn Magus as an adult gives a truer perception into the psychology she battles with in current time.
Strike Force #1 Mistaken identity especially with shape shifters provides the basis of this race-against-time starring lesser Avenger partners. Heroes like Spider Woman and Winter Soldier are framed for a crime they didn’t commit but are seemingly caught red handed by the real Avengers. In a plot twist which might be reminiscent of a similar structure on an episode of “Stargate SG1”, the participants start to figure out that they aren’t quite who they think they are. Blade, as a requisite outsider anyway, plays both sides and offers wisdom but with a slight bruise of indifference. One never quite knows if his ideals are specific or sound, simply that they might be for the greater good. The narrative thrust of the story can be derivative but it depends what this storyline’s ultimate goal is.
Punisher – Kill Krew #3 While the essence of Punisher is mostly earthbound, the KIll Krew storyline feels like something that could be torn out of “Heavy Metal” in a good way. Frank plays the ideal of almost an intergalactic revenge seeker with less weirdness than say Lobo as a comparative. The balance is reflected in the human as well as some of the purely stellar imagery as he fights his foes especially the blue giants who look like cousins of the genie from Aladdin. The storyline works and the pace is swift because of the volley between a human Foggy Nelson, a friend of Daredevil who just happens to be caught up in this mess and becomes the perpetuate of the viewer. Juggernaut, who is brute force, adds a layer of would be Hulkness reflective of Ragnarok which really plays well. The aspect of Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) having his van pulled by a ram that uses a genie to fly across galaxies is so out there it is cool. We also get a neat view of the chilling avengers the way the really are in off hours, hanging out and shooting the breeze.
By Tim Wassberg