Following the success of the two Tim Burton Batman films, an animated series was created, airing between 1992 and 1995. One of the most popular characters first introduced in the show was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn. Serving as the Joker's accomplice and love interest, Harley Quinn's character was further expanded upon over the years. After appearing in animated series, comics, and video games, she was brought to life in 2016's Suicide Squad. Portrayed by Margot Robbie, her portrayal was among that film's few bright spots, creator Paul Dini saying she "nailed it". Before that film's release, Robbie was pitching a spinoff film to Warner Bros as "an R-rated girl gang film". Robbie served as producer and star, with Cathy Yan hired to direct and Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) hired to write. The result was 2020's Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
After splitting from the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) tries to pick herself up and make a life for herself. Through a series of events, she gets captured by mob boss Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Turns out he's lost a valuable diamond, which Harley finds out about and agrees to help him find it. Young pickpocket Cassandra Caine (Ella Jay Basco) has stolen the diamond and swallowed it, so Harley manages to find her. At the same time, police officer Rene Montoya (Rosie Perez) is working on building a case against Sionis. She learns about the diamond and the bounty on Caine through nightclub singer Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Also, a crossbow-wielding assassin calling herself Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been killing mobsters leading up to Sionis. Eventually, all these women come together to form an unlikely team: the Birds of Prey.
Though I didn't think it was nearly as bad as others noted, 2016's Suicide Squad was not a great film. Despite its numerous flaws, I thought Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn was probably the best live-action version we could hope for. Thankfully, Birds of Prey is not only a great vehicle for her character, but it's a fun movie in itself. Firstly, Robbie is absolutely the star of the show and practically dominates the screen, delivering a fun and energetic performance. That's not to say the rest of the cast is lacking, but it's her movie first and foremost. Ewan McGregor steals the show as Black Mask, going full over-the-top and devouring the scenery around him, maybe too much. The rest of the cast, including Basco, Perez, Smollett-Bell, and Winstead also deliver strong performances and have their moments. Plus, the action sequences are well-filmed, exciting to watch, and very creative.
Visually, Birds of Prey is a treat to the eyes with its use of color and dramatic lighting. While many modern superhero films intentionally desaturate the color, this goes for a Guardians of the Galaxy type vibe. However, I do have some complaints, particularly with the frankly unoriginal story and lack of strong character development and growth. Except for Harley, many of the other characters are given the most basic of setups without further development. We do get backstories for them, but there's not much in terms of further developing them. The plot is uninspired, being another film where someone has to escort a kid, much like Logan or Deadpool 2. While I'd probably watch Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or Shazam! over this, it's still better than the lesser DCEU films. Overall, Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a flawed but entertaining ride.