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Birds of Prey First Reviews: Superb Action, Great Villains, and One Fantabulous Margot Robbie

Early reviews say Cathy Yan's girl-power super-antihero flick is one of the best DC Comics adaptations yet, with electrifying action sequences and a charismatic Margot Robbie in the role she was born to play.

by | February 5, 2020 | Comments

The success of Wonder Woman proved women-helmed, women-led superhero movies could be immensely successful, and now Warner Bros. and DC continue to lead in that arena with Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey, with Margot Robbie reprising her Suicide Squad role as Gotham City antihero Harley Quinn. The first reviews of the comic book movie are on the positive side, emphasizing the ensemble cast (including the villains), the action aided by John Wick director Chad Stahelski, and the general fun had by all involved, especially the audience.

Here’s what critics are saying about Birds of Prey:


Where does it rank in the DC Universe?

Rights so many of the DCEU’s wrongs, trading CGI for carefully choreographed fight scenes and breathing new life into a stagnant genre.
– Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

Birds of Prey looks like what you’d imagine Suicide Squad could have been under a clearer vision.
– Angie Han, Mashable

[Features] perhaps one of the most fun third acts in a DC film so far.
– James Whitbrook, io9

It’s the perfect spiritual successor to Joker in terms of the current state of the DCEU.
– Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

This is not a perfect film, nor is it the DCEU’s best. But it is immensely enjoyable.
– Kirsten Acuna, Insider


Is it just for DC fans?

No, [but] you’ll have a deeper understanding of [Harley] and DC characters like Black Mask, Zsasz, and Black Canary if you’ve watched animated DC cartoons, played popular games like Arkham City, and watched the CW’s Arrow.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider

Birds of Prey stands on its own more than most comic book movies. References to the Joker and Batman are few and far between.
Kristen Lopez, Fansided

A superhero movie that might actually be more enjoyable for viewers who haven’t read a single comic.
Susana Polo, Polygon

[It’s] a spinoff/sequel that requires no knowledge of its mediocre predecessor, Suicide Squad. Thank goodness.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot


Warner Bros. Pictures
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

What about the comparisons to Deadpool?

[It’s] DC’s R-rated answer to Deadpool in terms of rampant cursing, in-universe commentary and clever pop-culture riffs.
Brian Truitt, USA Today

Comparisons are going to be made between BoP and Fox’s R-rated Deadpool, which also has a fourth-wall-breaking antihero. Any similarities are only surface level.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider

It’s going for the sparky nihilist defiance… [but] Birds of Prey could have used more of the intricate cleverness of Deadpool.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Those hoping for a Deadpool-like fusion of mayhem and wit should lower their expectations.
John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter


Does Robbie continue to shine as Harley?

Robbie reminds you why Harley is the role she was born to play.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider

The movie is a stunning showcase for Margot Robbie, who commands the screen and gives her damaged protagonist all the dimension she deserves.
Laura Prudom, IGN

Robbie’s mayhem-fueled portrait of a mobster moll run amok is precisely tuned. She captures this unapologetic, dynamic complex woman with delirious verve and vigor.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Robbie’s shining performance cuts through the murk like a neon sign in a dark alleyway.
Angie Han, Mashable


What about the rest of the ensemble?

Birds of Prey is a true ensemble in the sense that it doesn’t work because one person or one part is excellent, but because they all are.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

The main heroine ensemble actors all breathe a wonderful amount of life into little-known characters overdue for mainstream attention.
Susana Polo, Polygon

The actresses who come together to form Harley’s posse… have presence to spare, but you wish they’d been given more to do.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Unfortunately, the Birds of Prey are the ones who get shortchanged by the ambitious scope… you can’t help but wish [the movie] leaned a little harder into the team-up aspect of the title.
Laura Prudom, IGN


Warner Bros. Pictures
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

Does anyone stand out?

Huntress is the least developed of all the lead characters… but in her few appearances, Winstead steals the show.
Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Fans will undoubtedly fall in love with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider

Winstead’s self-serious, mafia-bred, crossbow-toting Huntress appears to be ripped out of another movie entirely.
Kate Erbland, IndieWire

The scene-stealer is Black Canary… Smollett-Bell gives her character fire and a voice, literally, that has power.
Kristen Lopez, Fansided

In her debut feature film role Ella Jay Basco is a force to be reckoned with. With impeccable comedic timing, the young actress holds her own.
Britany Murphy, Geeks of Color


What about the villains?

The film also benefits from two first-rate villains… worthy opponents to Quinn, delighting in violence for the sake of violence but crucially grounded in reality.
Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

In terms of DCEU films, McGregor’s Sionis and Messina’s Zsasz are my favorite villains…[with] some of the best villain moments seen in a comic book film to-date.
Britany Murphy, Geeks of Color

It’s McGregor who shines the brightest in Birds of Prey… he skillfully slips between the personas to create an effective counterpart to each of the heroes.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

He’s the best villain in the DCEU right now… for what it’s worth, that’s not too high of a bar.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider

Victor’s obsessive desire to please his boss and Roman’s unchecked narcissism combine to create a dynamic duo who are pure nightmare fuel.
Laura Prudom, IGN

Villains Sionis and Zsasz are left aching for a bit more oomph, or gravitas, behind their wickedness… Their unhinged nature could stand to be dialed up further.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis is likely to be divisive… He’s an extravagantly blatant example of queer-coded villainhood, to the point where it’s not really coded at all.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot


Warner Bros. Pictures
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

How is Christina Hodson’s script?

Hodson has made sure internal and external character stakes are cogent. She utilizes familiar story elements, but remixes them into a refreshed product.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Hodson’s script is packed with the kind of small actions and moments of recognition that only a film made by women would ever think to include.
Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

Hodson uses Harley’s omniscient, if unreliable, narrator to great effect in order to immerse viewers in this world and introduce the various key players.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

Slight at best, convoluted at worst, but Birds of Prey rips through its hardboiled neo-noir story with such gleeful abandon that you barely notice the tired Macguffin narrative.
Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

The first hour of Birds of Prey is a bit confusing… Even if you’re a big DC fan, you may find yourself struggling to understand the point of the film.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider

The movie would have been so much better had it simplified its story by half.
Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

If you think of how the narrative is being shown and just who it’s coming from, it works well… but I could see that it might not necessarily translate to the audience as a whole.
Britany Murphy, Geeks of Color


Does director Cathy Yan rise to the occasion?

Yan steps up to the plate without a trace of the nerves you might expect of a first-time big-budget director.
Helen O’Hara, Time Out

Yan may be a newcomer to the big-budget blockbuster, but she brings an assured confidence to each stylistic choice.
Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Directing her first studio feature, Cathy Yan keeps it all hurtling along with impeccable ferocity. Her action scenes have a deftly detonating visual spaciousness.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Birds of Prey barely holds together plot-wise… That Yan directs the movie with a pinball comic energy, in scenes of action and character interaction, makes a world of difference.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes

She has a gift for kinetic fight scenes, though there are only so many creative-kill scenarios before the death toll becomes numbing.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Yan’s stylish direction and keen sense of comedic timing keep things lively even when the story starts to strain under the weight of so many competing storylines.
Laura Prudom, IGN


Claudette Barius/©Warner Bros.
(Photo by Claudette Barius/©Warner Bros.)

Does she deliver on the action?

Yan’s camera [holds] on wide shots to show off the acrobatic stunts of her stars. It’s one of the best displays of fight sequences in a superhero movie to date.
Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Boasts some of the most inventive fight sequences ever seen in a comic book movie… The smackdowns have a tangible, bone-crunching quality that sets them apart from the overly CGIed slugfests found in many other superhero movies lately.
Laura Prudom, IGN

The movie’s fight scenes are like highlight reels in themselves, mashing together visual artistry with bone-crunching savagery.
Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

Birds of Prey’s clearly shot and inventively staged action sequences feel like the first superhero movie response to John Wick’s success.
Susana Polo, Polygon

It’s not quite John Wick, but crisp camerawork and playful choreography place Birds of Prey comfortably above the muddy CG action of an Avengers: Endgame or, God forbid, a Suicide Squad.
Angie Han, Mashable


Does it do right by women in comic book movies?

Rather than the paint-by-numbers girl power of Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey presents flawed, multi-faceted women as more than an afterthought in male-driven narratives.
Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

The film is itself a liberation from male-led and male-created superhero comic book movies.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

Not only does Cathy Yan’s female-fronted, feminist feature capture one woman’s resilience… it symbolically represents that we women can overcome our worst starts.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

All the daily joys and hurdles of a woman’s experience are deftly woven into the larger-than-life fabric of the comic-book film… this isn’t the kind of boardroom-designed, slogan-spouting style of feminism we’re used to from Hollywood.
Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

Does the movie’s pop-feminist message need to be as consistently, cartoonishly violent as it is? Almost definitely not. But in a world gone mad, the catharsis of Prey’s twisted sisterhood doesn’t just read as pandemonium for its own sake; it’s actually pretty damn sweet.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

If there’s one thing Hollywood should learn from the experience, it’s this: Sometimes girls just want to have fun, whether they’re in superhero movies or watching them.
Susana Polo, Polygon

The perfect Galentine’s outing.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider


Warner Bros. Pictures
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

Will audiences want more?

Birds of Prey provides a perfect setup for a host of other intriguing spinoffs in the DC cinematic universe — can we request Poison Ivy next?
Laura Prudom, IGN

You’ll be ready for a sequel with the group or more of Robbie’s take on Harley the moment the film’s over.
Kirsten Acuna, Insider

Birds of Prey left me wanting [a sequel], which is about the most anyone can hope for in a big-screen comics adaptation.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Show[s] us just how cool Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey can be, so we’re left wanting to get back in line for their next movie.
Angie Han, Mashable

Nothing in Birds of Prey suggests [these characters] ever merit further attention, far out in this suburb of Gotham with Batman nowhere to be found.
John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter


Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is in theaters on February 7.

#1
Adjusted Score: 97.078%
Critics Consensus: With a fresh perspective, some new friends, and loads of fast-paced action, Birds of Prey captures the colorfully anarchic spirit of Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn.
Synopsis: You ever hear the one about the cop, the songbird, the psycho and the mafia princess? "Birds of Prey (And... [More]
Directed By: Cathy Yan

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