The DC Extended Universe has certainly its fair share of ups and downs, hasn’t it?
Poised to be a worthy rival to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it started off to a shaky but acceptable start with Man of Steel.
Then came the cinematic train wreck that was Batman versus Superman followed by the critically-lambasted Suicide Squad.
Wonder Woman managed to buck the trend, only for Justice League to continue it.
Thankfully, after a change of creative direction, DCEU films have finally started becoming fun and entertaining works rather than boring drabs, with Aquaman and Shazam being crowd-pleasers.
And with the release of the newest DCEU film, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), it appears that the DCEU has finally found firm footing and is here to stay.
Starring Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Jurnee Smollett and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, this film, helmed by Cathy Yan, is set some time after the events of Suicide Squad.
After breaking up with the Joker, Harley Quinn, strikes out on her own and soon finds herself on the wrong side of the murderous Black Mask.
Having no choice but to team up with a group of female vigilantes, Quinn and her new gang set out guns blazing and baseball bats swinging to take on the psychopathic crime lord.
The film ultimately revolves around the character of Harley Quinn, played by the always talented Margot Robbie, who unusually, first found life in the Batman animated series before being adopted into the comics.
Previously portrayed as little more than the Joker’s abused girlfriend with a serious case of Stockholm’s syndrome, Quinn has been given a more positive depiction as of late in video games, comics and cartoons.
Now more anti-villain than a full-blown villain, Quinn is nonetheless a colourful character with something of a violent streak thrown in.
And there really is no better actress to play Quinn than Robbie. She brings the character to life with all the quirkiness and colour that the role requires and you can’t help but crack a smile at her antics.
Whilst she was given less time to shine in Suicide Squad, Robbie is given more screen time in Birds of Prey and thus, shows that she is indeed an interesting character who is not mere eye candy.
Special mention should also go to Quinn’s adorable pet hyena, Bruce, who will likely cause some cinemagoers to want a pet hyena of their own.
But what good is a protagonist without a similarly interesting antagonist to work off?
Ewan McGregor, recently seen as the heroic protagonist of Doctor Sleep, plays Roman Sionis, a crime lord with particularly sadistic tendencies.
Given how the film is rated 18, his cruelty is on display as Sionis has a morbid fascination with masks, and ripping faces off living people.
McGregor truly shows that he is a thespian of great range, as he oscillates easily between the personality of a bubbly nightclub owner to a bloodthirsty hot-tempered psychopath.
Just a few twitches of his cheekbones and the fury in his eyes are enough to convince you that he really is a wolf in sheep’s wool and that he is a threat not to be trifled with.
While the film is in the same continuity as the other DCEU films, references to them are somewhat scarce.
This actually serves well for the film as this is a standalone story without the chains that would often come attached to a film in a cinematic universe.
It does raise the question though of what the Dark Knight is doing when a chemical factory gets blown up and when multiple gruesome murders take place throughout his city of Gotham.
The film is closest to the Suicide Squad in terms of tone, but thankfully, is less jarring in its execution compared to its predecessor.
When the situation demands that the film be serious and morbid, it goes that way and thankfully does not break the tension with an ill-placed joke.
The pacing sometimes does feel a little fast though, and the climactic final fight might catch you off-guard.
In addition, the characters all generally have well-defined personalities, though it must be said that Winstead’s Huntress could have been given more time to develop hers.
As previously mentioned, the film is not for children and Birds of Prey takes the opportunity to use its rating to its full advantage.
There are quite a few fight scenes that, by the end of the film, will have you thankful that you have a functioning pair of kneecaps for one.
Fans of comic book films and the DCEU are likely to enjoy this newest cinematic offering.
It is also a treat to get yet another girl power movie, so perhaps this movie is the best thing to watch on a girls’ night out?