Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Birds of Prey

As I mentioned before, I never read a single comic book about Birds of Prey. Apart from previously knowing Harley Quinn, Black Canary (from the 1980s specifically) and Huntress (from the 1990s), I had minimal knowledge of the DC Comics’ title as well as modest expectations entering the cinema yesterday to watch Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn which is the latest superhero production from Warner Bros.

Right now, I’m happy to share to you that the R-rated movie proved to be a fun-filled watch and is proof that the DC Comics Cinematic Universe is still moving forward (in terms of engagement, enjoyment and creativity) towards greatness.

Here is my movie review of Birds of Prey.

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Early Story

The story begins with a look into the past of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) moving forward until her breakup with the supervillain Joker (don’t expect to see Jared Leto’s image). Through narration and clever visuals, Harley is now living a new life. Along the way, there is a club within Gotham City bustling with life which Harley haves fun at and eventually she encounters the club owner Roman/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) who is not what he seems. After getting drunk and becoming vulnerable to men with sinister intentions, Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who sings at the club, comes to her rescue. After recovering, Harley moves on to destroy a huge facility of Ace Chemicals which further sets events off…

Quality

While the screenplay by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) lacked storytelling depth and character development, director Cathy Yan and her team still managed to craft a superhero film that was fun, action-packed and, surprisingly, not too reliant on computer-generated visual effects.

To make up for the lack of story depth, the movie relied mainly on the performances of the actors to bring their characters to life. Margot Robbie really excelled in playing Harley Quinn inside and out. While this latest cinematic portrayal does not have Harley insane, she’s still crazier than in Suicide Squad. Robbie’s act this time is more creative, more adulterated (which is the way the go), more daring with action and also more comedic. From this point on, I should say that Warner Bros. should rehire Robbie to play Harley Quinn in even more DC Comics movies.

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Here come the ladies: Renee Montoya, Huntress, Harley Quinn, Cassandra Cain and Black Canary.

Rosie Perez as Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya delivered a strong presence as the law enforcement element in the film and through her, we get to see the culture of the local police. Don’t expect her to have any links with police commissioner Gordon or Batman, though. Jurnee Smollet-Bell as the cinematic Black Canary is one of the stronger performers even though her version of the character is radically different from the one I read in the comic books long ago. Ella Jay Basco, an actress of Filipino and Korean heritage, as the orphan Cassandra Cain is clearly the movie’s representative (and attraction to) of the youth. Performance-wise, Basco delivered a nice performance even though her character (who in the comics is one of many who became Batgirl) lacks depth. Fortunately for us moviegoers, she is not the whiny teenager who annoy viewers and, more importantly, she delivered nicely in her part of the film’s plot. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good as the cinematic Huntress. It’s too bad her on-screen presence is not long enough to be enjoyed, nor were moviegoers given better opportunities to know the Huntress better.

The most outstanding performance in the movie was delivered by Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. McGregor, who is a naturally artistic actor, is very colorful with his portrayal of a supervillain who, unlike many other such antagonists in other superhero movies, is charismatic, suave and yet cruel to the core. This cinematic Black Mask is not your generic action movie villain and, as such, hiring McGregor was one of the best moves made by Warner Bros. I honestly find McGregor a worthy adversary versus Margot Robbie when it comes to cinematic artistry.

When it comes to spectacle, Birds of Prey is heavily loaded with hard-hitting action plus some bloody shots that make it standout among the many superhero movies released in this current century. For one thing, the actresses themselves took an active part in doing action and the stunts they could pull of on their own (the harder stuff were understandably done by stunt doubles). Watching Harley Quinn beat up the bad guys with that large hammer, the baseball bat and other stuff were not only hard-hitting but also creative without ever looking choreographed. Black Canary’s high kicks were notable. Renee Montoya’s reliance on guns and hard action were symbolic throwbacks to the police movies of the past. Huntress meanwhile showed how deadly her small but powerful crossbow can be on-screen.

Late in the film is a certain long-take action sequence filled with the characters struggling with the bad guys simultaneously (without using computer-generated imagery) which was cleverly filmed with nice timing as the camera moved on very steadily. That sequence, even though short, is worth watching again and again. Oh yes, there are no shaky camera sequences shot!

The action scenes, in my opinion, came into play at the right time whenever I felt enough dialogue and exposition were made. This shows that the filmmakers pulled off the right moves with the pacing to ensure that people are kept entertained while still maintaining some storytelling sense which is quite an achievement since the film’s plot lacked depth. The stunts, meanwhile, are really nice to watch.

As for the brewing arguments and anticipation that Birds of Prey is a leftist and feminist piece of propaganda, I should say that such influences are more on the visual side than on the dialogue. Even though Ewan McGregor publicly said the movie is feminist, it’s not too strong. The feminism is more visible in images of the ladies fighting the bad guys who are varied with their looks – muscular, tall, big, beards, etc. The feminism is obvious with the ladies teaming up together and that is not surprising at all. Even though it has feminism elements, Birds of Prey is still pretty much a superhero movie on its own. You want a movie with stronger and more blatant feminism? Watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi instead. Maybe you want to try Elizabeth Banks’ failure Charlie’s Angels.

Conclusion

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With strong and creative performances plus loads of fun stuff that more than made up for the lack of story depth and character development, Birds of Prey is an enjoyable superhero movie that is worthy of being part of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe. Without relying on fan service, this movie expands the current cinematic universe’ presentation of Gotham City and shows the other parts of it away from Batman.

Even if you have not read any Birds of Prey comics, this movie will still prove to be entertaining. Just don’t expect to see the more iconic DC Comics characters and don’t expect to see heavy amounts of computer-generated images on-screen. Birds of Prey is more grounded and for a production of roughly $100 million, the production values still look high.

Overall, Birds of Prey is highly recommended and I encourage you to watch it in the cinemas as soon as possible. And if you have the extra money, watch it on an IMAX screen as the film was optimized for the format.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Joker

Let me make it clear to all of you readers. The movie Joker is NOT a superhero movie at all even though it is a cinematic adaptation focused on one of DC Comics’ biggest super villains. It is also not a movie to watch for fun and enjoyment, but it is still engaging in a very different way.

The truth is, Joker is a large art film made to shock viewers with darkness, deep grit and some graphic violence. The good news here is that the movie is very engaging and easily reminds me of two certain movies that Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese worked together on. It’s a victory for Warner Bros. and DC Comics.

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Joaquin Phoenix as the new cinematic Joker will be remembered for a long time.

Joker follows the exploits and Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a struggling man who is hardly surviving working as an entertainer (a clown, specifically) supporting his mother and dealing with the hard life of Gotham City which was stylistically made to look like 1970s New York City. Arthur, who is living with a condition of uncontrolled laughter, looks up to TV show host Franklin Murray (played by Robert De Niro) as an inspiring figure to try out comedy and hopefully make it big to free himself and his mother from poverty.

While performing as a clown surrounded by children in a hospital, Arthur accidentally drops a gun he just received from a co-worker. Because of this, he gets fired and learns that the man who gave him the gun lied to their boss. While riding the subway still looking like a clown, he gets beaten up by three business executives who were drunk. In response, Arthur kills them with the gun and gets away. This incident starts a chain of events that causes friction between the upper class and the lower class, and then protesters wearing clown masks multiply.

On face value, Joker is clearly inspired by character-driven films of the 1970s. While it is not necessarily based on any particular comic book, it carried some slight elements from Batman: The Killing Joke. What is more obvious is that it took inspiration from De Niro-Scorsese films Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.

As a psychological thriller, Joker is a great portrayal of how low a desperate man could go only to strive and survive. Arthur Fleck is greatly played by Joaquin Phoenix who carefully blends drama, anger, violence and even humor altogether. He really made the cinematic Joker his own and along the way, his Joker laught is more effective than that of Heath Ledger and the Joker physical appearance is almost as memorable as that of Jack Nicholson’s. The movie is indeed very violent but it is not overly violent. To be specific, there are a lot more deaths, acts of violence and shooting in Brian De Palma’s Scarface than this movie.

Joker also has a lively portrayal of the conflict between social classes. The scenes of the clown-masked protesters filling the trains and the streets still resonate with the socio-political rallies that happened in modern society. There is also the aspect of poor and desperate people depending on government for survival and they are easily vulnerable to getting cut off whenever resources run out.

Desperation is also a solid theme in the narrative. To see Arthur Fleck look up to Franklin Murray and imagine sharing the stage with him on TV reminds me a lot about some real-life people (who don’t have too much money) I encountered in Cebu City who can’t help but stop studying (even the older ones quit their legitimate jobs) and get into local entertainment hoping that fame and fortune will lift them up. Of course, when things get worse, desperate people would either get back to what they can live with or, worse, turn to a life of crime just to survive. With regards to Arthur’s attempt to become a comedian on screen, that easily reminds me of similar people in real life who thought they are very talented to be the next great superstars but ended up failing.

Conclusion

With its very solid direction by Todd Philips, great dramatic performances, nostalgic presentation and in-depth characterization, Joker is a must-watch movie mainly for moviegoers who want to be engaged with psychological thrills and bouts. As a DC Comics movie that is NOT connected with Warner Bros.’ current franchise of superhero movies (that started with Man of Steel in 2013), Joker works as an adulterated, standalone movie. To compare it with comic books published DC, I should say Joker is very much like an Elseworlds story. For the new comers reading this, Elseworlds was a franchise of comic books published by DC Comics that had stories using established characters but were told outside of DC universe canon.

Joker is highly recommended. Just don’t expect to see the usual superhero movie elements in this very solid DC Comics movie.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com