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The ‘Birds of Prey’ Exit Survey

Harley Quinn has her own movie (bye, Jared Leto!) and her own new girl gang. Did DC pull it off, or did it drop the breakfast sandwich?

Warner Bros./Ringer illustration

We never need to think about Suicide Squad again, but at least the movie gave us Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie’s take on the therapist turned ultraviolent-bonkers villainness. Robbie took center stage on Friday with the release of Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, a movie starring, written by, and directed by women. After seeing Birds of Prey, the Ringer staff unleashed their takes.

1. What is your tweet-length review of Birds of Prey?

Daniel Chin: It felt a bit like a Deadpool movie starring Harley Quinn, which is not a complaint at all.

Kate Halliwell: Apologies to Chris Evans, but Chris Messina’s knives are ALL the way out.

Andrew Gruttadaro: It’s not great, but a lot of superhero movies aren’t, and the true mark of gender equality in Hollywood isn’t female filmmakers being allowed to make great movies, but being allowed to make average ones.

Miles Surrey: [Gestures to Joker, Dark Phoenix, Captain Marvel, Hellboy, Every Zack Snyder DCEU Movie] See, superhero films can be fun!

Claudette Barius

2. What was the best moment of the film?

Chin: Every single moment involving Harley’s bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich—from its sensual introduction in Sal’s bodega to its triumphant return in the film’s final scene.

David Lara: Definitely when Sal the bodega chef is whipping up a perfect breakfast sandwich because we’ve all been there after a long night of drinking and doing drugs after the Joker—the Joker is a metaphor for all of our exes—breaks up with us.

Gruttadaro: Probably when Harley Quinn broke a guy’s leg in, like, three places. (Or any time Chris Messina or Ewan McGregor did some weird stuff.)

Surrey: There is a fight scene in which Harley Quinn just beats the ever-loving shit out of some bikers with a baseball bat—at one point, she even snorts cocaine like it’s an HP boost in a video game. The sequence was awesome, and in retrospect, it makes sense the director of the John Wick franchise was probably responsible for it.

Halliwell: Blatant “girl power” moments in superhero movies tend to ring hollow with me, but I loved the mid-fight ponytail holder moment. Imagine trying to kill people with hair in your face? Impossible. Tie that shit back.

3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?

Halliwell: I could have done without the literal face-peeling, but I support Chris Messina in all his choices.

Gruttadaro: The music drops in this movie were awful (which, coincidentally or not, was also a major problem in Suicide Squad). We know it’s a movie about a woman reclaiming her power—that doesn’t mean we need to hear “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Barracuda,” and Kesha’s “Woman.” Come on, let’s get a little more creative here.

Surrey: Not a part, per se, but the movie never really elevates Cassandra Cain beyond “human MacGuffin,” making it harder to buy the growing relationship between her and Harley Quinn.

Chin: I was disappointed with the direction they took with Cassandra Cain. As one of the few Asian characters to have a major role in the comics, I was excited to see how the film would integrate Batgirl into a story about Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey. Alas, Cain was reduced to a street-smart pickpocket who served as little more than a MacGuffin. But, hey, at least she was still Asian?

Lara: When the aforementioned breakfast sandwich was ruined.

4. Who in this movie was doing the absolute most?

Lara: Harley Quinn, particularly during the “U Got It Bad”–channeling jail water fight or any time she wore roller skates.

Gruttadaro: OMG, Chris Messina, and it’s close only because Ewan McGregor is also doing a lot. They’re having so much fun, wearing incredible fits, and coming so very close to just being an old-but-very-weird gay couple. The movie snaps to life in every scene they’re in.

Chin: Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina seemed to be competing against each other to claim this title. Can I go with a tie?

Halliwell: Ewan McGregor has officially entered the hammy Jake Gyllenhaal–esque stage of his career, and I for one am thrilled.

Surrey: Ewan McGregor still has the high ground!!!

5. Tag yourself as one of the Birds of Prey. Explain why.

Chin: Huntress—not because I am also an assassin hell-bent on avenging the murders of my entire family, but because her social awkwardness and the general cluelessness about why she was in the movie was very relatable.

Lara: I’m definitely Huntress because I, too, wonder whether people actually know me.

Surrey: Harley Quinn is obsessed with breakfast sandwiches, likes animals, doesn’t take anything seriously, hates Jared Leto’s Joker, and voted for Bernie Sanders. I am … Harley Quinn?

Halliwell: I’ll go with Huntress—her deep social awkwardness is so painfully relatable.

Gruttadaro: I’m Cassandra Cain, the friend who never poops.

6. What rash decision would YOU make if Jared Leto’s Joker dumped you?

Chin: Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I mean, if it were Jared Leto’s Joker dumping me … wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Surrey: Breaking up with Jared Leto’s Wannabe Edgelord Joker would be the best thing that had ever happened to me.

Gruttadaro: For a while I’d really struggle—like existential crisis levels—about what was wrong with me. How could the dude who spent at least 24 hours assembling a circle of knives get tired of me? But then I’d ultimately realize how much better my life was going to get. And then I’d move somewhere much chiller than Gotham City. Like, I don’t know, Cleveland.

Halliwell: Let’s be real, I’d slide right into Batman’s DMs. Especially if Batman is Robert Pattinson.

7. After Birds of Prey, how is DC doing in comparison to Marvel?

Gruttadaro: It’s so different—which is a good thing. DC movies are such unique entities now that you don’t know what you’re getting when you walk into the theater, to the point that it barely feels worth comparing DC and Marvel. Obviously, Marvel is still destroying DC in box office numbers, and DC’s quality variance is much more volatile, but at least the viewing experience feels new every time.

Lara: DC is still the G League compared to Marvel, but I love that this film can stand alone from the rest of the DC universe.

Surrey: You really don’t know what you’ll get from DC these days, both in a good way (the Aqua-masterpiece!) and a bad way (Joker is poison). But that unpredictability, without much consideration for franchise interconnectivity, is a refreshing alternative to the MCU’s fine-tuned familiarity. Give me Birds of Prey over Captain Marvel any day of the week.

Halliwell: At this point, it feels like comparing apples and oranges. Let me enjoy my R-rated DC superhero movies and my ever-expanding Disney+ TV universe. There’s room in my heart for both Harley Quinn and Bucky Barnes.

Chin: Birds of Prey is a very welcome pivot from Suicide Squad, and along with recent solid films like Shazam! and Joker, I think DC is starting to find its footing after many mediocre to Green Lantern–level bad movies. Marvel is still way ahead of DC due to its long-term plan and consistency in the past decade, but I think DC is smart for trying out different approaches rather than just trying to copy Marvel’s formula for success.

8. The superhero genre is moving deeper into the R-rated space—how is this move going, and where should it go from here?

Chin: It’s been a necessary change of pace for the superhero genre, keeping it fresh as DC and Marvel continue to churn these films out year after year.

Having the R rating allowed movies like Deadpool and Birds of Prey to be completely over the top with their violence and dialogue to fit their absurd and violent leading characters, while also paving the way for DC to make a stand-alone film like Joker. Moving forward, I’d love to see more films like 2017’s Logan that use the extra freedom to depart from traditional superhero movies without the R rating being a gimmick.

Lara: Keep it going; some comics’ stories can’t be told with a PG-13 rating.

Halliwell: I’m not a huge fan of überviolence, so I could do without that, but I think certain heroes need that extra edge to do their comic counterparts justice. So I’ll take it in certain cases—miss me with R-rated Thor or whatever, but give me R-rated Blade any day of the week.

Gruttadaro: All I ask is that we try to keep doing adult superheroes in interesting ways rather than resorting to being “gritty.” And just as I say that, I remember that there’s definitely going to be a Joker sequel.

Surrey: Not every superhero movie has to go there, but it would be nothing less than a tragedy if Venom 2—costarring Clown Wig Woody Harrelson—wasn’t R rated.