Just days before a movie about the Joker is set for a spotlight at the Oscars, a movie about is ex is ready to blow up the box office. The fabulously named Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) swans into theaters this weekend, but movie critics have already gotten a first look at the latest DC Comics blockbuster. Despite the inconsistent lineage of DC movies up to this point, critics seem mostly pleased with its aesthetics and themes.

Directed by Cathy Yan with a script by Christina Hodgson, Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) struggling to find purpose after a break-up with the Joker. But when a young thief named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) steals a precious treasure from crime lord Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), it sets into motion a chain of events that brings Harley into contact with a whole group of valkyries: Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). Read a round-up of reviews below.

Credit: Claudette Barius/ © DC Comics

EW (Leah Greenblatt): “What can a female supervillain do? Everything a man does, apparently, except backwards and in bedazzled roller skates. Birds of Prey makes no exceptions for the fairer sex: Over some 110 minutes of relentless hard-candy mayhem, women are shot, punched, and stabbed; kidnapped, clotheslined and crossbowed. And if they haven’t struck first, they always strike back.

Sometimes those “bullets” come from a glitter gun, but the body count is somehow rarely lowered by the presence of Harley Quinn — the pigtailed agent of chaos played by Margot Robbie with a voice like an unmedicated Betty Boop and a dainty black heart tattooed on her cheekbone.”

Variety (Owen Gleiberman):Birds of Prey is the eighth film in the DC Extended Universe, as well as the first to be rated R, and coming after the stand-alone phenomenon of Joker, it’s a comic-book movie that isn’t pretending, in a single moment, to cast a spell of poetic awe. Yet it’s still a compellingly novel popcorn jamboree. Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel were female-superhero movies that offered the empowerment of earnest fantasy. Birds of Prey offers the empowerment of utter irresponsibility. The women in this movie look badder than those previous heroines did because, for the most part, they just don’t give a f—k. With any luck, that should all translate into a major hit.”

The Hollywood Reporter (John DeFore): “A second (live action) chance for a much-loved DC Comics character to overtake the big screen, Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey rescues the anarchic cutie Harley Quinn from 2016’s execrable would-be franchise starter Suicide Squad, pairing her with a nascent all-woman band of crimefighters.

Billed on posters under the unwieldy title Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), it’s the second ensemble outing for a character (and, with Margot Robbie, a performance) screaming for the spotlight — or, at worst, second billing to the most charismatic villain in comics, the Joker. Leaning more heavily into action than laughs, the pic largely delivers on that front. But those hoping for a Deadpool-like fusion of mayhem and wit should lower their expectations: Harley may be known for her unpredictability, but Birds plays by action-movie rules.”

IndieWire (Kate Erbland): “Yan’s film, written by Bumblebee scribe Christina Hodson, imagines a vivid (and very human) new origin story for Harley Quinn, resulting in a necessary reinvention that adds dimension and depth to one of the DC Expanded Universe’s most distinctive characters.

Yet Harley’s titular emancipation…still takes a backseat to franchise conventions, from the good (eye-popping fight scenes, a cast of thrilling new heroines, wacky villains) to the cloying (still more glitter, awkward coincidences) and the bad (disjointed plotting and a messy narrative).”

The Wrap (Alonso Duralde): “A thoughtful meditation on liberation, egg sandwiches and glitter bombs, Birds of Prey (subtitled And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a giddy treat of an R-rated comic-book movie, borrowing elements from inspirations as disparate as “9 to 5,” Bugs Bunny and Modesty Blaise to create an adventure that tweaks its genre familiarity with delightful bursts of anarchy and wit.”

The Daily Dot (Gavia Baker-Whitelaw): “Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, Birds of Prey is an ideal fit for Harley Quinn: fun, glitzy, and uninterested in redeeming its heroine. The whole point of Harley is that she’s a mess. She makes self-destructive choices, and even in a live-action movie for adults, she has the moral and aesthetic instincts of a cartoon villain. Rather than being a role model, she’s a self-indulgent fantasy—an archetype you rarely see for female characters. Harley is violent and petty and ruled by comically extreme mood-swings, but most importantly, she’s fun. That’s why Margot Robbie was the runaway star of Suicide Squad, and why Birds of Prey is sure to satisfy her fans —even if it’s a rather shallow concept compared to some recent superhero movies. DC Universe’s Harley Quinn cartoon covered similar territory in a more thoughtful way, but Birds of Prey serves perfectly well as a kind of cross between Deadpool and a Lady Gaga video, featuring flashy costumes and well-choreographed fight scenes.”

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