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What the critics are saying about Birds of Prey

The rehabilitation of the DC Extended Universe continues.

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) has screened for critics, and while there is still an embargo on formal reviews, they're taking to social media to heap praise on the film. Thanks to a smart and funny screenplay by Christina Hodson, the sure-handed direction of Cathy Yan, and the efforts of an all-star cast led by Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Birds of Prey is looking to continue to the extreme reversal of critical fortune that studio Warner Bros.' DC efforts have recently enjoyed.

Virtually every aspect of the production was praised, but front and center was the performance of Robbie, who was given the opportunity to bring new levels of dramatic and comedic depth to the character she portrayed in the critically lambasted Suicide Squad. We're not saying that the absence of Jared Leto's Joker was an incredibly smart decision by the creative minds behind Birds of Prey, but... no, wait, that's exactly what we're saying.

Let's dig in to what the critics are saying about Birds of Prey, starting with an ensemble that, by all accounts, was cast flawlessly.

The cast of Birds of Prey kills it

Joining Harley in her quest to bring the pain to the dastardly gangster Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) and his sidekick Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) are a pair of kickass antiheroes, a Gotham City cop, and one scrappy kid. Jurnee Smollett-Bell portrays Dinah Lance/Black Canary, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead holds down the role of Helena Bertinelli/Huntress; they are flanked by Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a youngster who has incurred the Black Mask's wrath. Critics near-unanimously opined that this cast, as they say, freakin' killed it.

"Delightfully devilish & deliriously wicked,this irreverent, rule-breaking riot delivers a contact high," tweeted Courtney Howard of Fresh Fiction. "Cathy Yan is a genius. Robbie, Smollett, Winstead, Perez & Basco are perfection."

Some critics disagreed among themselves — not as to whether the cast aced it, but as to who aced it the hardest. Angie Han of Mashable tweeted that Winstead's Huntress "is the not-so-secret MVP," for example, while FanSided's Kristen Lopez opined that Smollett-Bell's Black Canary "steals the show." 

Yolanda Machado of The Wrap, meanwhile, refused to take sides. "Its truly an ensemble with every woman bringing it," she tweeted. "Christina Hodson's script was lively, funny, & everything I've been waiting for in the DCEU... Cathy Yan created a Gotham that I can't wait to revisit."

Scott Mendelson of Forbes perhaps summed it up best, and in doing so, he betrayed a distinct fondness for quirky comic-based properties. "Everyone is having a blast but Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Huntress like a supporting character from The Tick," he tweeted. "It rocks."

Birds of Prey has crazy action sequences

Chemistry among the cast is great, but Birds of Prey is a superhero movie, and critics also agreed that it delivers the action-packed goods with some of the craziest, most visceral fight scenes ever put to film. You read that right: Yan and company have apparently created a true action showcase, the likes of which the DC films had not yet seen.

Lest you think we're being hyperbolic, here's Rosie Knight of IGN: "Damn [Birds of Prey] delivers! It's a glittery hard action comedy that has the best choreographed fight sequences I've seen in a superhero movie. It also features my fave comic book film needle drop ever." Her colleague Laura Prudom agreed, tweeting, "[Birds of Prey] is a riot — oozing with attitude and some of the most inventive, bone-crunching fight sequences in the superhero genre to date. I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but has style to spare."

Jill Pantozzi of io9 called the fight scenes "phenomenal," while CinemaBlend's Sean O'Connell opined that "[Birds of Prey] is worth seeing for the kick ass action and the Funhouse Fight Scene, alone." According to IGN's Terri Schwartz, the flick doesn't skimp on the sheer quantity as ass-kicking, either: "I'm pretty sure if you took the total amount of action sequences versus total screen time, this would be one of the highest percentages of action in the modern comic book movie era," she tweeted. "Someone do the math for me later."

Birds of Prey might have the best DCEU villains yet

The trailers for Birds of Prey gave every indication that McGregor would give an unhinged, gleefully scenery-chewing performance as Black Mask, and we're happy to report that this indeed appears to be the case. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that early reactions indicate that we just might be looking at the best villainous performances in a DCEU movie to date.

Griffin Schiller of The Playlist tweeted, "COULD NOT get enough of McGregor's Black Mask; hysterical, eccentric, & deliciously pathetic. A rockin' kick ass good time!" ComicBook's Brandon Davis called McGregor's performance "so sinister and often hilarious," while veteran film critic Katie Walsh simply tweeted, "FYC: Ewan MacGregor, Best Supporting Actor." (That's "For Your Consideration," in case you're not up on your Hollywood lingo.)

McGregor did have a bit of competition, however, from Messina. Angie Han tweeted, "Would like to send a lil prayer of thanks for the costume, makeup, and hair people responsible for Chris Messina's entire situation here because wow yes thank you," while Jason Guerrasio of Business Insider chimed in with, "If you like your violence often and a lot of dirty language you're gonna love [Birds of Prey]... It feels [like Deadpool] in that way, but then add Chris Messina chewing every piece of scenery in sight!!"

Birds of Prey isn't without some minor issues

Of course, some reviewers jumped online to point out some of the flick's faults — but notably, even they viewed them more as minor quibbles in a film which, overall, they enjoyed (some were even quoted above, offering their words of praise). Germain Lussier of io9 tweeted, "Birds of Prey is solid. The unpredictable structure keeps the first half moving and the action boosts the rest. Robbie is excellent, as is McGregor. It's tamer than expected and the basic story can get lost in the complex setups but it works more often than not." Yes, this is pretty much the closest any critic came to a negative assessment.

CinemaBlend's Eric Eisenberg noted that the film at times feels more like a solo Harley vehicle than a team-up film. "[It] isn't a Birds of Prey movie so much as it's a Harley Quinn movie feat. BOP — and that creates issues story-wise & in fleshing out characters — but it's a hell of a lot of fun," he tweeted. "It's at its best when going full Harley-vision, & Margot Robbie is clearly having a blast."

Some critics, including Han and her Mashable colleague Alison Foreman, took slight issue with the film's sometimes-draggy pacing, but again, all conceded that their issues with Birds of Prey were minor. All in all, the flick was heralded as one of DC's best — thanks in large part to Yan and Hodson, who have apparently crafted something pretty special.

Birds of Prey could be one of DC's best movies

The DC Extended Universe may have gotten off to a rocky start, but with Aquaman, Shazam!, Joker (which it should be noted is completely unconnected to the other films), and now Birds of Prey, it looks like the franchise has finally hit its stride. Placing an emphasis on solid standalone movies made by gifted, committed filmmakers has paid off (go figure), and some critics went so far as to place Birds at or near the top of the DCEU pack.

"[I'm] happy to report that [Birds of Prey is] my favorite modern DC movie yet," tweeted Mike Rougeau of GameSpot. "Like Shazam!, it carves its own path with totally unique aesthetic, action, and tone. Margot, Ewan and all the rest are 100% fantabulous." He only had one complaint: "Why aren't there more roller skate action scenes??"

Mashable's Foreman called the flick "Leagues better than Suicide Squad," and opined that this was "in large part because we get a rare glimpse into the rich inner life of a female supervillain (and it actually delivers on what was promised in the trailer.)"

Discussing Film's Ben Rolph summed up the consensus with his tweet. "[Birds of Prey] is a stylishly fantastic ride," he wrote. "Margot Robbie is [in] top form, Harley has never been quirkier and more lovable. Well-made, shot with beautiful color and overall, a sleek piece of grand entertainment. Also, McGregor is THE BEST. We need more Birds of Prey, it's great."

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot to look forward to. Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) hits the big screen on February 7, 2020.