The Morning After: Mar. 2, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

The first female superhero to have her own movie was Supergirl. That colossal failure in 1984 ensured that female-led superhero films would remain ephemeral for more than three decades when Wonder Woman finally picked up her Lasso of Truth and rastled up a box office hit in 2017. That film’s success finally led studios to believe that women could indeed lead superhero films. Captain Marvel was announced shortly thereafter and Wonder Woman 1984 is right on the horizon, as is the Black Widow movie everyone’s been clamoring for since the character was introduced in Iron Man 2 ten years ago.

The Russo brothers even teased an all-female Avengers during the final film in the massive 10-year story arc last year. It won’t happen, but it was a nice, if somewhat condescending moment. Birds of Prey, like Wonder Woman before it, is DC’s attempt to start a new revolution and prove an all-female superhero film can succeed. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. did some poor marketing and no one knew it was part of the DC Extended Universe and was an indirect sequel to Sucide Squad. Yet, Birds of Prey is one of the best films DC has ever produced, right up there with Wonder Woman. Margot Robbie is a terrific lead as the ex-lover of the toxic villain Joker. She meats up with four other disparate individuals who have no ties to one another and certainly no love, yet they eventually come together to take out the rampant misogyny of spurned rich kid Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his serial killer henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina).

With the help of Rosie Perez, Mary Elzabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Ali Wong, Robbie leads a brilliant cast in the most thrilling ensemble piece since X-Men: Days of Future Past. Cathy Yan’s superb direction and the terrific, complex screenplay from Christina Hodson help make this a fine example of how putting women in charge of the top level positions on a film allows them to subvert the cinematic form and buck tradition to convey a compelling voice. The film may be rough around the literal edges, but its figurative impressiveness more than makes up for any minor quibbles. The rotting production design of a city in decay is perfectly fitting for a film with bubble-gum pop sensibilities baked into a city rife with political and social struggles.

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