Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn UHD Blu-ray Review

You ever hear the one about the cop, the songbird, the psycho and the mafia princess? “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is a twisted tale told by Harley herself, as only Harley can tell it. Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

94


Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 2019
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 109 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Thriller/Action

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, English/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smolette-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Written by: Christina Hodson
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 12, 2020

“Mayhem at its Finest!”

Synopsis:

“When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz (Chris Messina), put a target on a young girl named Cass (Ella Jay Basco), the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley (Margot Robbie), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez)’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.” – Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

My Take:

It’s open season on Harley Quinn when her explosive breakup with the Joker puts a big fat target on her back. Unprotected and on the run, Quinn faces the wrath of narcissistic crime boss Roman Sionis aka Black Mask, his right-hand man, Victor Zsasz, and every other thug in the city looking to even the score. But things soon even out for Harley when she becomes unexpected allies with three deadly women — Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya, in an effort to protect a young thief and prevent Roman from obtaining a gem that could make him the city’s richest crime lord.

I am far from being well versed in the characters of the DC Universe. Mt first taste of Harley Quinn was in DC’s 2016 film Suicide Squad. I did enjoy the role the character played in the film and Margot Robbie’s take. As such, I thought that Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn looked like it might be fun.

I liked the film’s frenetic narrative which places focus on Harley Quinn’s penchant for unscrupulous behavior and narcissistic ramblings. The plot is pretty thin in general but, then again, it serves the rule breaking tone of the story fairly well. There is a guilty pleasure theme that underscores the banality but, I found that to be part of the charm of Birds of Prey. The action is more or less over the top which, worked and, the production elements are spot on.

Margot Robbie owns the character which is a good thing, seeing as she has the lions share of the screen time. The supporting character base was a mixed bag. Ewan McGregor is a great character actor and made the most of what he had to work with here which wasn’t much. I am a big Mary Elizabeth Winstead fan. The Huntress just didn’t get enough screen time to be a factor despite her being the film’s most interesting character behind Harley Quinn. The weakest and most annoying of the lot is the subplot/character of Renee Montoya played by the equally annoying Rosie Perez.

Anyway, despite a few quibbles, I had a good time with Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn and look forward to giving it another spin.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

 

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/True HD 7.1 channel sound.

Birds of Prey was derived from a 3.4K source, and rendered from a 4K DI. I received it on Blu-ray and Ultra HD a few days apart and watched it on Blu-ray one evening and Ultra HD afterward. The high definition experience was fresh in my mind which helped when making comparisons.

This can be a colorful film and while I didn’t find its imagery in that regard to be especially engaging on Blu-ray, that wasn’t the case in the Ultra HD rendering, which makes the most of its elements. With a discernible increase in detail and emboldened chromatic highlights the image appears sharper and vibrant when compared to the 1080p version. Primary colors like blue and red are pleasingly rich while whites appear gradational and punchy. The spectrum of secondary colors literally pop off of the screen. The opening sequence involving the foot chase through the market/streets of Gotham provides a glimpse that offers the bonus that the presentation’s wide color gamut has to offer. The combination of rich color, sepia, and gradational whites look stunning.

I also enjoyed the implementation of HDR. The added dimension in blacks, and shadows during the low-level scenes, such as the one where Roman holds Harley captive, is immediately noticeable. There are a few sequences (like the large standoff at the abandoned amusement park) where the cinematography makes use of shadows, streaming light and a mix of light/dark elements. It’s application here is used very well, drawing upon HDR’s ability to create stark contrast between the two. The blend of shadow detail/depth of field offset by the presence of light at varying levels, looked very natural.

The film has a variety of sequences that make use of close ups and, camera angles that show off the superb rendering of detail. The battle in the police department’s cell block with the sprinklers running looks terrific. The exterior sequences featured in the film have appreciable depth which has an enriching, and eye-catching aesthetic. The difference between viewing Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn in high definition and Ultra HD isn’t night and day BUT, there is no question that it benefitted from the increase in resolution, emboldened color and high dynamic range treatment which elevated the viewing experience.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

In comparing the DV and HDR10 renderings I ran the same scenes using my reference UHD player (both in DV and forced HDR10). The title looked outstanding on both formats with respect to the reproduction of color/HDR. I did feel that the DV presentation offered slightly richer color rendition and handling of the finest details in shadows. Neither was enough of a variation to warrant a rating difference. As I said, you can’t go wrong with either.

Dolby Atmos/7.1 channel Audio:

Birds of Prey has a solid 7.1 channel surround track, so I wondered how much the immersive experience would improve upon it. In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that made effective use of the platform. Its use of audio objects is a mix atmospherics, discrete effects and ambient music bleed. This creates an appreciable level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events.

Beginning with the film’s opening followed by the destruction of Ace’s chemical plant, there are instances where the mix generates a noticeable improvement in dimension and depth of field as the track conveys the breadth/expanse of interiors/exterior venues, flying debris and nearfield sounds. Things ramp up when the action kicks as the soundstage bristles with enveloping ambience and discretely placed effects. The encounter at the police station and the standoff in the finale are good examples. While these sequences sound very good in 7.1, they are taken to the next level in the Amos mix.

The lossless 7.1 soundtrack has solid dynamic range, detail rich clarity, and makes ample use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is notable. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the palpably rich and, room shuddering bass associated with the action-based sequences. Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction. I enjoyed this audio presentation and thought that it mated perfectly with the source material.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Birds of Prey Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Birds of Prey Blu-ray
    • Birds Eye View Mode
    • Birds of Prey: Birds of a Feather
    • Grime and Crime
    • Wild Nerds
    • Romanesque
    • Sanity is Sooo Last Season
    • A Love/Skate Relationship
    • Gag Reel
  • Digital

Final Thoughts:

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn isn’t the best film to come out of the DC Film Universe but, it’s not the worst and, features an eclectic blend of action, humor and thrills that kept me entertained. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in the Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack featuring excellent all-around audio/video, including a solid Dolby Atmos surround mix and a solid supplemental package. Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is pure popcorn entertainment and is especially recommended for fans of the character as played by Margot Robbie. If you’re curious toss it in your rental queue and take it for a spin on Ultra HD Blu-ray/Blu-ray.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems