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Comic Book vs. Movie: Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

It might surprise you to see a diehard Marvel Comics fan talking about a movie from the DC Universe, but Harley Quinn has been one of my favorite comic book characters ever since her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series back in the early 1990s. Harley has appeared in a tremendous number of comic books, not only alongside the Joker, but also working with characters such as Power Girl, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman.

Back in 2016, the movie Suicide Squad introduced Harley Quinn to the DC Universe once again, this time in a live-action context. While the movie was pretty unpopular with critics (Rotten Tomatoes only gave it a 27%), I absolutely loved it!

The reason I loved the movie so much was due to Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn. Her performance in Suicide Squad ultimately paved the way for the recent DC film, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. (According to IMDB, Robbie is already onboard for three more Harley Quinn-related projects, including one that is scheduled to come out in 2021).

“You know what they say…behind every successful man is a badass broad.”

Harley Quinn, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Birds of Prey takes place sometime after the events of Suicide Squad, in the wake of a messy breakup between Harley and the Joker. In response to their breakup, she gets the brilliant idea to stage a very public demonstration of the fact that they are no longer together by blowing up the Ace Chemicals plant. Unfortunately, this results in “open season” being called on Harley Quinn. Now that she no longer has the Joker’s protection, she’s fair game for everyone who has a grudge against her…and that’s a lot of people.

As she tries to keep one step ahead of everyone that’s gunning for her, Harley’s life gets tangled up with that of Cassandra Cain, a young pickpocket who has stolen a diamond from the wrong guy. Getting the diamond back might mean the difference between life and death for Harley, but she’s not the only one going after it.

I really enjoyed Birds of Prey! The movie has a tremendous amount of action and humor, impressive fight scenes and special effects, and a phenomenal cast. But what makes this movie so cool is the fact that nearly all of the main characters are strong, intelligent women. The movie has a definite “girl power” feel to it, which really sets it apart from many of DC’s earlier movies.

I have not had the opportunity to read any of the Birds of Prey comic books, so I can’t really comment on the accuracy of the movie with respect to the characters in those particular books. However, I can say that (like Suicide Squad) this movie did a phenomenal job when it came to the character of Harley Quinn.

Birds of Prey included several Harley Quinn comic book references, including elements from DC’s “The New 52” series by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. Some of my favorite references included: Harley’s choice of a hyena as a pet, her participation on a roller derby team, and a taxidermy beaver that she has seemingly one-sided conversations with.

The Blu-Ray release of Birds of Prey is fantastic, and includes a variety of special features. While I have not yet watched the “Birds Eye View Mode,” which takes the place of a typical movie commentary track, I have watched the rest of the features, which discuss everything from action sequences and stunts, to set and costume design. I was not overly impressed with the gag reel, but it did have a few very funny moments. My favorite special feature was “A Love, Skate Relationship,” which not only talks about the movie’s roller derby sequence, but also doing stunts while wearing skates.

While Birds of Prey is a great movie, it definitely earns its R rating (due to violence, language, sexual content, and drug use), making it much better suited to adult audiences than most of the other movies in the DC Universe. It’s pretty much on par with what a Marvel Comics fan would expect from one of the Deadpool movies.

For fans of Harley Quinn, Birds of Prey is going to be a big hit. If you have an opportunity to watch it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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