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Harley in her Suicide Squad cell

The DC live-action universe is a fascinating place that seems to be in constant motion. Rather than full release schedules like the MCU, Warner Bros. allows the performance of each blockbuster to dictate its future. There have been some cast and director shakeups as a result of Justice League's box office bomb, but one thing is clear: DC is putting a lot of stock into Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. The femme fatale was a fan favorite from David Ayer's Suicide Squad, with the highly anticipated Birds of Prey marking her second appearance on the silver screen. And it turns out that the movie's writing was at least partly influenced by Robbie's hope that Harley gets real friends.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a semi-spinoff for Harley, while also introducing iconic characters from Gotham City and Batman lore. The upcoming blockbuster was written by Bumblebee's Christina Hodson, who recently spoke about early meetings she had with Margot Robbie about the female-centric project. As she put it:

Margot knew she wanted to tell a ‘Harley Quinn plus girls’ story. That was kind of where she began with it. She knew she wanted a girl gang. She wanted Harley to have friends.

Harley was a scene stealer in Suicide Squad, but we didn't really get to see her interact with female characters. Viola Davis' Amanda Waller was more of a manipulator than anything, while the sword wielding Katana was mostly mute throughout the film's runtime. But that'll change when Birds of Prey finally hits theaters, and sees the villainess interact with DC favorites like Huntress and Black Canary.

It turns out that Christina Hodson and Margot Robbie met for the first time four years ago, before David Ayer's Suicide Squad had even arrived in theaters. While Harley formed somewhat of a family unit in her first appearance, her personal relationships look like they'll be especially important during Birds of Prey. And the villain's first genuine friends will surprisingly come from the heroes of Gotham City, including GCPD officer Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).

Harley Quinn is a character that was originally defined by her abusive relationship with The Joker. First debuting in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley is constantly beat down physically and emotionally by Mr. J, but continues to stand by her puddin'. But Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) seems to be teasing the character's independence from Jared Leto's Clown Prince of Crime.

Later in her conversation with Total Film, Christina Hodson went on to explain just how passionate Margot Robbie is about Birds of Prey, and her character's overarching narrative. As the writer put it:

She’s a comic-book fan. Obviously, you know, it’s not a traditional team-up. So then it was about finding fun, inventive ways of doing that. Warners were very supportive in terms of letting me go off-leash.

This is all very exciting. Not only will Birds of Prey challenge the character of Harley Quinn in new and exciting ways, it seems that Warner Bros. allowed the filmmakers to create bold narrative choices for the upcoming movie.

Birds of Prey looks like it's going to balance the drama of Gotham City Crime with a quirky cast of characters led by Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. The movie has had a unique approach to marketing thus far, revealing the cast's upcoming looks through a screen test. A brief teaser was also cut, but only released to audiences ahead of IT Chapter Two.

The upcoming blockbuster also recently debuted its first poster, which puts Harley front and center, and shows audiences how she sees the world, and the various characters she'll come into contact with for Birds of Prey. The trailer is unique compared to the typically ultra-serious approach that most comic book movies make. And it should be fascinating to see how it all shakes down when Cathy Yan's DC debut continues the shared universe's timeline.

Harley in Birds Of Prey's test footage

Harley Quinn was the undisputed scene-stealer of David Ayer's Suicide Squad, helping to buoy the film in fun and one-liners. Fans had been waiting decades to see Harley get the live-action treatment, with Margot Robbie really taking to the psychotic Batman rogue. She struggled with deciding where she belonged throughout the movie, torn with the mission and The Suicide Squad itself and Jared Leto's Joker. She ultimately helps Task Force X save the day, and was last seen when Joker arrived to break her out of Belle Reve.

Jared Leto isn't listed in the cast of either Birds of Prey or James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, so it's unclear if we'll ever see that version of the villain again. Christina Hodson presumably had to write around his physical balance, connecting the dots of Harley's story and the years since we've last seen her. The character's titular emancipation likely comes from a break up, which will force Harley to rethink her choices and relationship with Mr. J.

Perhaps Birds of Prey will focus in on the abusive side of Harley's relationship with Joker. We saw how he tortured her and drove her mad in Suicide Squad. What's more, he nearly killed her when purposefully driving his car into the Gotham waterside, with Ben Affleck's Batman (RIP) forced to dive in and save her. There was also a ton of Joker-related content that was left on the cutting room floor, so it should be interesting to see how their relationship is portrayed onscreen this coming February.

Joker may be out first, but Birds of Prey is the next movie set within the DC Extended Universe. The past two releases were solo flicks, with Shazam! and Aquaman both taking the shared universe to new places, but Birds of Prey will reveal if a big ensemble film can truly work within the DCEU.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) will fly into theaters on February 7th, 2020. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movie.

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