Birds of Prey (film)

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn

bop posterGonna to take a brief break from books to talk about this film, which I have been looking forward to for a long while. I have been meaning to do a few non books reviews and failed to get round to it so I am pleased I have managed to sit down to write this.

I have been a fan of the character of Harley Quinn for a very long time, since she was introduced into the 90s Batman cartoon.

If I am honest I can’t entirely remember why I loved her back then, I think something about her brokenness called to my own. As a teenager I loved the whole Harley/Joker thing, as an adult I am far more aware of the problems and after seeing Suicide Squad especially, I was certainly looking forward to seeing what this film could do for the character.

I shall also admit that I don’t really know much at all in regards to the Birds of Prey group so don’t expect any particular comments or criticisms in regards to that as I don’t know enough to care one way or another as to whether they are as they should be according to the comics. And if anyone is wondering, the main thing that puts me off superhero comics is the oversexualisation of the female characters, combined with the sheer amount of them there are, it’s a little intimidating.

But anyway, very brief (spoiler free) synopsis of the plot is that Harley has broken up with the Joker and is dealing badly with the break-up. When she publically outs herself as single she now has to deal with a whole lot of people who want to kill her or hurt her for her past misdeed, this include Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Added to the mix is that teen thief Cassandra Cain may have stolen a very important diamond and people are desperate to get their hands on it and her.


When watching the film it is exceptionally clear how female led the film is: female director, female writer, and two female producers (one of which is Margot Robbie). This was pretty much Margot Robbie’s pet project, though I think at first she had wanted to do a Gotham City Sirens film (something I would kill to see, gimme Harley/Poison Ivy already). The women are sexy and gorgeous, but the camera does not linger on boobs and asses and it was such a rare and refreshing treat. There is even a point when Harley is soaked to the skin and there’s no nipples or sexualisation of it.

There are also some unsettling scenes with women being treated badly by men and even the way those are framed is really different. Usually there is something in them which makes them weirdly sexual, violence against women is often used to titilate male viewers and I felt like that there was none of that here and honestly it was a delight.

birds-of-preyThe film itself is a riotously coloured parade of violence with some rather unsubtle women vs men bits in it. It puts the womens’ stories front and centre, many of them being women of colour or queer women (or both!) This was definitely my jam and I really, really want them to make more films like this please!

Captain Marvel

“I don’t have to prove anything to you.”

captain marvelI had fun reviewing The Umbrella Academy so I definitely think I am going to try and do more TV and film reviews when I am moved to do so. This time I wanted to talk about Captain Marvel. I may try and do so in two section, the first spoiler free for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, the second includes them. There will be some dead space inserted between the two.

But anyway, I have been looking forward to this film for a while. Definitely about time Marvel gave us a female-led superhero film and it shouldn’t have taken DC succeeding with Wonder Woman to bring it about. It is likely that there will be comparisons to Wonder Woman in the review, mostly because the only other films I can compare it to that are led by women are Catwoman and Elektra and I would rather not.

Please do note that I do not intend to do comparisons to put one against the other. It’s great that we can have more than one lead female superhero. I would like far more than two. In fact it would be lovely if I didn’t have such scant material to draw from, but here we are so I will just have to make do.

So brief overview of the story in case anyone doesn’t know. Vers is an amnesiac Kree warrior who ends up getting separated from her team and crashing on earth along with a number of Skrull shape-shifters who appear to be after a scientist. She ends up teaming up with Nick Fury to try and track down the Skrull, at the same time winds up finding out that she has memories that connect her to Earth.

Of course it ends up being more complicated than that and she finds out that she is a human called Carol Danvers, not only that but her Kree mentor Yon-Rogg killed her previous mentor, Dr Wendy Lawson (who was a Kree called Mar-Vell) and she in turn exploded the engine he was after and the energy from that fused with her being, giving her the powers she possesses. She also finds out that the Skrull are not the enemies, they have been systematically hunted by the Kree for not submitting to their rule and Dr Lawson/Mar-Vell was helping them hide and wanted to get them far away from the Kree.

In the end she defeats Yon-Rogg and the Kree sent to eliminate the Skrull, along with the help of her best friend, Maria Rambeau and a cat called Goose (who turns out to be a creature called a Flerken).

Firstly I want to say that overall I think I enjoyed this film more than I enjoyed Wonder Woman. Mostly because the love interest thing in Wonder Woman really annoyed me, as did the lack of any significant female interactions with Diana after she leaves her home fairly shortly into the film. I am not opposed to love interests in films, but that one felt pretty weak and too quickly formed and it bothered me. Whereas Captain Marvel features a lot of strong relationships between the women in the film and I was all there for that.

So to start with we see her meeting the Kree Supreme Intelligence, an AI being that appears to someone in the form of the person they most admire. In Vers case it is someone she doesn’t recognise, but we later find out is Dr Wendy Lawson. We then find out she designed the planes that Carol and her friend Maria fly. I do wish we had perhaps a few more flashback scenes to get even more of a connection between the two, but the fact that they gender flipped the character to give her an older female mentor was extremely well done.

Then we have the relationship between her and her best friend Maria. Again, similarly to her relationship with Lawson, I do wish that more was seen of this before, but the scenes we do get between the two show a strong bond which is only strengthened when the obvious love and care of Maria’s daughter, Monica. That Monica also looks up to both Carol and her Mum as heroes and inspirations is wonderful to see and I adored it.

My biggest gripe about any female character in the film is that they criminally underused Gemma Chan as Min-Erva and if she doesn’t make an appearance in future films with a bigger role I will be absolutely fuming.

In regards to relationships in the film, they did still centre a lot of it more around Carol’s interactions with Fury, Yon-Rogg and the leader of the Skrull, Talos, which was somewhat frustrating. Personally I would have preferred the film to be braver and take more of a step in the direction of representation of women than they did, but given how long it’s taken Marvel to actually make a female led super hero in the current MCU, I am guessing they were taking baby steps here.

It is frustrating though considering how well Black Panther showcased its excellent female characters, giving them their own stories and letting them show off their talents, even as supporting characters and honestly out of the two films I would generally say Black Panther’s portrayal of women is better, even though they are not the central character of the film. The part when T’Challa is thought dead and is unconscious means that they are actively driving the plot at that point and there is no way he could have managed half of what he did without their help.

The specific bits of acknowledging women’s issues were on the lighter end of the scale and not dealt with in much depth either. We have the comments about Maria and Carol not being allowed to be combat pilots in the 90’s and this being because they lacked the necessary equipment to be in the cockpit.

At one point she is told she should smile by a random biker, who she ignores at first but after he goes into a shop she steals his motorcycle and some clothes and rides off.

There is also a theme of comments from Yon-Rogg throughout the whole film about Carol being too emotional, about her letting her emotions get the better of her and that’s why she can’t beat him in a fight without using her powers. The weird thing there is that she isn’t particularly emotional at the start, somewhat jokey at times, but generally she’s calm and level-headed for a good chunk of the film. I did appreciate that her accepting her humanity and being more comfortable with her emotions did not make her weak and in fact helped her to unlock the powers they had tried to control in her.

Right at the end she fights Yon-Rogg (I also loved that she actually got to fight many men in this film and not in the overly sexualised sorts of fights we tend to get) and he taunts her to try and get her to fight him without powers and she blasts him and then just says “I don’t have anything to prove to you” and I honestly loved that.

Overall it is an good film, doesn’t quite have the sparkle I would have liked to see and I honestly think that is because they played this too safe. If they had pushed more into the exploration of a female hero and did more than the brief nods to what being a woman can be like, I think they could have had something as special as Black Panther.

Still, it’s doing well at the box office so I have every reason to believe that future solo Captain Marvel films may well appear.

To end with here’s a picture of Goose, everyone’s favourite scene-stealing cat (Flerkin).