The DCEU, or the Worlds of DC if you prefer, is in a state of flux. Stars like Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, who were expected to be linchpins of this universe, look to be on the way out. Their current slate of films continually have production woes, with Ezra Miller’s The Flash being delayed just yesterday. So who do WB and DC turn to next? The answer, which will surprise many, is Harleen Frances Quinzel.
That’s right, DC is banking on Harley Quinn becoming, more or less, the face of their cinematic universe. No offense to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, whose first film is seen as the saving grace of the early DCEU, but with no Justice League 2 on the horizon, Diana Prince will be regulated to her own solo films. That leaves Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn as the lone franchise crossover star in this universe.
So let’s break down how we got to the point where Harley has become such an integral part of the DCEU and everything we know about her next appearance in the highly-anticipated Birds of Prey.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD EFFECT
It was all the way back in 2009 that WB started development on a Suicide Squad movie. It was until director David Ayer signed onto the project in 2014 that the ball really started rolling. In November of 2014, Margot Robbie signed onto the project, reportedly beating out fellow castmate Cara Delevigne for the role of Harley Quinn. She was, of course, joined by Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, and Joel Kinnaman to name a few.
Principal photography on Suicide Squad kicked off in April of 2015 and wrapped in August of the same year. During filming, it was widely reported that Joker actor Jared Leto was a problem on set, citing his method acting for the hijinks. He would send used condoms and dead pigs to members of the cast. Those reports began a narrative that Suicide Squad wasn’t going according to the studio’s plan. That would eventually be confirmed as it came out that WB took editing privileges out of David Ayer’s hands and using a trailer company to cut the final film.
When the film was released, it was torn apart by critics. It quickly became known as one of the worst modern comic book films (modern meaning post-Batman Begins). As much as the film was a critical debacle, there were multiple silver linings. First, Suicide Squad grossed $746.8 million worldwide. They always say that money talks, and boy did it talk in this case. One of the other big success that WB could take from the film was the praise that Margot Robbie received for her performance as Harley Quinn. Fans ate up every second she was on-screen, and every review you read mentioned Robbie as one of the highlights.
Quickly, it became apparent that fans wanted as much Harley Quinn as they could get. WB took notice and made the decision to get as many projects into development that could involve the character as they could. In December of 2016, a mere 4 months after the release of Suicide Squad, it was reported that Ayer and Robbie were reteaming to make a Gotham City Sirens movie. It would’ve seen Harley Quinn team up with Poison Ivy and Catwoman as a heroine team in Gotham. Sound familiar? We’ll get there.
Let’s now move onto the Joker and Harley Quinn movie. During SDCC 2017, ScreenRant reported that WB was developing the project with Leto and Robbie set to reprise their roles. That film, along with GCS, was added to a growing list of movies featuring Robbie’s Harley Quinn that already included Suicide Squad 2, which in 2016 appeared to be a priority for WB.
As we now know, none of those movies ended up moving forward. Why is that? Because of Birds of Prey. So let’s get into this upcoming project that appears to have what it takes to become one of DC’s best.
BIRDS OF PREY TAKES THE CAKE
When WB was busy developing those aforementioned Harley-centric movies, Margot Robbie was busy working on her own project. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news, months before the release of Suicide Squad, that a Harley Quinn solo film was in the works. At the time, it wasn’t clear if that movie would be Birds of Prey, but we now know that was the case.
It took almost 2 years to begin to see movement on the project. Cathy Yan signed on to direct Robbie’s movie in April of this year. A script was already in place, but with a hectic shuffle in WB executives following Justice League, nothing was moving forward until the time was right. That’s where we get to the meat of this write-up, why was Birds of Prey the one to get greenlit? Because it’s the right project at the right time.
Before the debacle that was Justice League, Wonder Woman showed studios that audiences were hungry for women-led superhero movies. We knew Wonder Woman 2 was on the way, but the next DC projects in the pipeline were Aquaman and Shazam!. So how does a studio capitalize on a woman-hungry climate? Not with Joker and Harley, not with Suicide Squad 2, but with a movie brought to them by a woman who is passionate about it and who wants this movie made by women. That’s what Margot Robbie is planning to deliver in Birds of Prey.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM BIRDS OF PREY
Our colleague here at SBM, DanielRPK, has been all over the development of Birds of Prey. He’s been dropping scoop after scoop, nugget after nugget, regarding the film. That’s where we’re going now, what kind of movie are we looking at?
If you follow DanielRPK on Twitter, you can see the hints he drops about what to expect from Birds of Prey. Just today, he posted a tweet stating the following “While there is a lot of focus on Harley Quinn (No shock there) Birds of Prey is an ensemble piece first and foremost. And if anything it’s more of Cassandra Cain’s story than it is Harley’s.”
We know BoP will see Harley team up with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Renne Montoya (Rosie Perez). They will be taking on notable comic gangster Black Mask, who’s yet to been cast. Their mission will reportedly be to rescue Cassandra Cain from Mask’s clutches.
We can see the fingerprints of multiple genres in that synopsis. DanielRPK shed some light on that as well, saying “Birds of Prey is Stella Got Her Groove Back meets Reservoir Dogs…Meets Logan…”
That sounds like a wild mess, but let’s break it down. The Logan is clearly the Cassandra Cain aspect, with her role being compared to X-23’s in the past. The Reservoir Dogs comparison could be liking the heist of the heroines in BoP to the one Quentin Tarantino’s characters pulled off in the iconic movie.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back is the clear outlier. If you’re unfamiliar with the movie, it follows Angela Basset as a 40-year-old stockbroker raising her son in California. She goes on a vacation to Jamaica where she’s introduced to a younger man that she falls for. She then has to rethink her life which leads her to become a new woman, with a different outlook on life.
Now that obviously doesn’t sound like a comic book movie. But there’s a secret hidden theme in all that plot. The heroines we’re going to be introduced to in BoP aren’t your cookie cutter heroes. Harley is coming off a stint in Task Force X, Huntress has always been a sort of anti-hero, and Black Canary has been portrayed as a hardcore street-level vigilante many times. Those don’t sound like individuals who have everything figured out and maybe, just maybe, they need to get their groove back.
Those descriptions could give validation to some character details that were reported earlier today. They went as follows:
- Black Canary (Smollett-Bell) is a singer who fights crime at night.
- Huntress (Winstead) was a killer for Black Mask right up until discovering that he killed her family. So now she’s hunting him down.
- Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is trying to move on from The Joker (who is referenced, but not seen).
- Renee Montoya, on the other hand, is on Huntress and Black Mask’s trail because of the body count they’ve amassed
This write-up was intended to shed some light on how Birds of Prey became a sort-of diamond in the rough for DC. All the pieces are in place for this movie to make a significant impact on the superhero genre. It’s going to be exciting to see how this project moves along in the future.
Are you excited for Birds of Prey? Let us know in the comments below! –Jackson Hayes
Birds of Prey will hit theaters February 2020