She’s so over clowns. SUICIDE SQUAD breakout star Harley Quinn is back, and this time she’s bringing a few new heroes along with her. Our favorite unpredictable antihero returns in BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN), coming to theatres in February.
In BIRDS OF PREY, Harley joins forces with three very different characters, Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya, to take on Black Mask, a villain who dreams of having a tight grip on Gotham City. As DC's new superhero adventure flies towards theatres, let's take a look at everything we know about BIRDS OF PREY.
After first being discussed back in 2016, BIRDS OF PREY will open on February 7. The film is the product of Margot Robbie's work as a producer; in addition to starring in the film, Robbie used her significant clout to make a more unique spin-off from SUICIDE SQUAD than just a Harley solo movie.
One of the most interesting aspects about this movie is the BIRDS OF PREY director: Cathy Yan. The filmmaker was previously a journalist, having worked as a reporter for The Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal prior to making films. In 2018, her feature film DEAD PIGS, which takes place in Shanghai, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. Shortly after, Yan was hand-picked by Robbie to direct BIRDS OF PREY.
Warner Bros. released the first full trailer for the film on October 1, 2019, and the second major trailer on January 9, 2020. The first trailer features Harley Quinn cutting ties with the Joker after what appears to be a serious confrontation. She then meets Black Canary, a singer who’s looking to free herself from Gotham’s criminal underworld. The footage also shows Harley protecting Cassandra Cain and teaming up with Huntress, Renee Montoya and Black Canary to fight the gangster Roman Sionis and his enforcer, Victor Zsasz.
The second trailer does more to set up Harley's emotional state after breaking up with Joker — it seems like she is, er, not doing great — and explains how several of the other characters are tied to Ewan McGregor's villain.
More than anything else, both trailers showcase the movie’s unique tone. They combine Harley Quinn’s unstable nature with the classic elements we expect from a comic book movie: flashy action, ruthless villains and plenty of superheroes.
In the film, Harley Quinn forms an alliance with two vigilantes, Black Canary and Huntress, and also teams up with Gotham City detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). Their goal is to protect young Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from a guy named Roman Sionis. Batman fans know him better as Black Mask, a vicious crime boss who has claimed Gotham City as his turf. With Ewan McGregor in the role and from his appearance in the trailer, we expect Sionis to be a magnetic, compelling figure.
In DC comics and even on TV shows like "Arrow," a few different women have operated under the Black Canary name. We don't know precisely who this Black Canary will be, but a few traits are common to almost every version of the character. Black Canary is an amazing fighter, and has a sonic cry that acts like a unique tactical combat option. The alter-ego of Huntress, meanwhile, is Helena Bertinelli, the daughter of a mafia figure. She's often like a more angry and dangerous version of Batman.
Harley Quinn’s toxic relationship with the Joker was an important aspect of her mythology for a long time. That changed in recent years, as Harley gradually broke away from the Clown Prince of Crime and became her own character. The closing scene of SUICIDE SQUAD seemed to hint at a long future for the couple when Harley was broken out of prison by the Joker. BIRDS OF PREY, however, puts an end to their relationship.
As the “And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” subtitle and the trailer showed, the film will deal with Harley being free from Joker’s grasp. She's free to carve out a different path for herself. How that will evolve throughout the story remains a mystery, but seeing Harley as her own character is exciting given her humor, intelligence and unpredictability.
Robbie was instrumental in making BIRDS OF PREY happen, and has said that "I pitched the idea of an R-rated girl gang film including Harley, because I was like, ‘Harley needs friends.’ Harley loves interacting with people, so don’t ever make her do a standalone film. She’s got to be with other people, it should be a girl gang. I wasn’t seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space. So that was always a big part of it."
When BIRDS OF PREY was put into development a few years ago, it was seen as possibly the first R-rated DC Comics film. That was before JOKER came together in rapid fashion. Now, the smash success JOKER means it won't be the last DC Comics movie to carry an R rating. BIRDS OF PREY did ultimately get an R rating.
Harley Quinn may have started out as a baddie, but she’s turned things around. Unfortunately for her, BIRDS OF PREY will teach her that walking the path of a hero (even an anti-hero) comes with its own set of challenges. Namely: Powerful villains.
The evil-doers in BIRDS OF PREY are Black Mask, played by Ewan McGregor, and Victor Zsasz, portrayed by Chris Messina. Black Mask has been a dangerous presence in Gotham City for many years. Despite not possessing powers, Sionis controls vast resources and has a penchant for violence, all of which make him a formidable adversary.
Zsasz is also quite deadly, and is far more terrifying. The villain is known for killing people, whose deaths he marks on his own skin by carving a symbolic sign.
Harley doesn't have any real powers, and neither does Huntress. Black Canary, on the other hand, has typically been written with a super-sonic scream that can do some serious damage. We didn't know if that would be a part of BIRDS OF PREY — until the second trailer, which explicitly shows the power in action. Will Canary be the only super-powered character?
The DC movie universe has explored dark storylines in the past, most notably with MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN and to an extent, SUICIDE SQUAD. At the same time, the franchise has offered more family-friendly movies, with the likes of WONDER WOMAN, SHAZAM! and AQUAMAN.
Based on everything we know, BIRDS OF PREY will bring a more distinctively adult treatment to the series. That was made evident by the trailer, which featured plenty of bone-crunching action and a considerable amount of violence. Given her penchant for violence and humor, Harley Quinn (as well as the rest of the Birds of Prey) perfectly lends herself to an R-rated treatment. That’s also true for the villains, who, in the comics, are notoriously vicious. Zsasz, in particular, makes us wonder what BIRDS OF PREY will be like.
But the film might not just be "dark." With Margot Robbie's creative input influencing the direction of Harley Quinn's evolution, and director Cathy Yan coming on board, BIRDS OF PREY has the potential to push these comic book characters in unexpected directions. That could allow the film to explore parts of Gotham City life that haven't been seen on the big screen.
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.