Warner Bros. is developing a Harley Quinn spinoff movie thanks to Margot Robbie, who fell so in love with DC’s female characters while researching for Suicide Squad that she hired her own (currently unidentified) female writer to help put together a script treatment. This was recently presented to WB, who liked it enough to give them the go ahead to write a script. We know next to nothing else about this other than the crucial distinction that this will not be a solo movie. Instead, Harley will be paired with other female villains and heroes from the DC Universe, with the only names directly identified as possibilities being Batgirl and Birds of Prey.
That was the big scoop THR exclusively broke yesterday afternoon. I was initially elated when I saw the headlines. A Harley Quinn movie? Um, yes please. Suicide Squad will get her origin story out of the way via flashbacks. Now WB can do what they probably should have started out with: a Deadpool-esque Harley Quinn movie which captures the same wacky, meta spirit which has turned her into DC’s #1 selling female character, #2 overall behind Batman. Maybe get Lexi Alexander to direct so that the fight scenes will be expertly choreographed.
Except that’s still not what they’re doing. Instead, they’re talking about merging Harley with the Birds of Prey and or/Batgirl?
If you don’t know, Birds of Prey is a team of female characters, mostly (though not exclusively) from the Batman side of the DC universe, formed by Batgirl and Black Canary. It features a rotating membership, with characters like Huntress, Poison Ivy, Catwoman and Katana sticking it out for short bursts before departing. Similar to Suicide Squad, there is a slight element of “bad guys as the heroes,” although only in the sense that Black Canary will frequently take on members who were once villains and may or may not be trying to go straight (spoiler: they usually revert to their old ways, eventually).
As for Batgirl, much like Harley she exploded in popularity after the introduction of her New 52 solo series. If Wikipedia can be trusted, “Since the series relaunch in September 2011, Batgirl has remained within the top 30 of the 300 best-selling monthly comic book publications sold in North America.” If all you know about her is that she was once shot and paralyzed by the Joker, well, she can walk again, but is still plagued by emotional trauma from the experience.
I don’t mean to discount the significance of WB actually running with a potential Birds of Prey movie to be headlined by Harley. I remember when Sony was reportedly developing a female team-up movie with Spider-Man characters, and how there was a lot to like about the idea from a progress standpoint (heck yeah, more female characters in these movies) but next to nothing from a source material point of view (um, there’s no precedent in the Spider-Man comics for this kind of thing). Well, there’s plenty of source material with the Birds of Prey. They’ve been around long enough to already have a failed TV show in their past.
But the version of Harley Quinn who has become so popular ever since the debut of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn solo series in 2013 has nothing to do with the Birds of Prey. In fact, she’s largely disconnected from the DC comics continuity, making her all the more accessible to casual readers who don’t give two shits about the latest universe-altering threat faced by the Justice League.
As it is, she’s barely even connected to the comic book Suicide Squad anymore, what with being too busy anchoring three titles of her own (Harley Quinn, Harley’s Little Black Book, Harley’s Gang of Harleys) and routine one-off specials (like Harley Quinn & Power Girl). She absolutely dominates all other female comic book characters, DC or Marvel, in merchandising, and is always the best-represented female character among cosplayers at conventions. Yet she still can’t get her own movie?
It should be noted that just because the phrase “Birds of Prey” is being thrown around doesn’t necessarily mean they’re definitely adapting that book and those characters. It might simply be one idea of many. They could also be exploring a loose adaptation of Gotham City Sirens, the 2009-2011 series in which Catwoman attempted to help rehabilitate Harley and Poison Ivy.
My sense is that they won’t actually adapt from any one source but instead pick from here and there. But why can’t they just adapt the Palmiotti and Conner comics and call it good? Transplant Harley to Coney Island, give her a job as a psychiatrist at an old folk’s home and watch as she (as ScreenRant summarized) “tries to live (mostly) on the right side of the law, solving more problems with murder than she should.” Maybe just go with what Palmiotti and Conner did in their first run and have Harley become entangled in the increasingly complicated and hilarious spy movie-esque backstory of one of her patients.
This version of Harley is, at heart, a good person who stands up for society’s fellow outcasts, is always fiercely loyal to her friends and exhibits a plucky optimism and rather fluid sexuality. She’s not starting her own gang to rival the Joker nor is she struggling with her emotions over him. In fact, she rather epicly told him off in a recent issue:
And then she can break the fourth wall, as per usual. Heck, just as Deadpool was allowed to mock X-Men‘s hopelessly complicated continuity maybe a Harley movie would be allowed to make fun of Batman v Superman.
Okay. Warner Bros. won’t let that happen, and the common law of comic book movies demands there must be a villain to defeat. Yeah, Harley doesn’t actually have any of those, other than maybe herself.
Maybe an adaptation of the version of Harley Quinn I love from the Palmiotti-Conner comics is never going to happen. It’s of a completely different tone than what the DC Cinematic Universe has been going for to this point, and it doesn’t fit into a neat comic book movie box. Folding her into Birds of Prey would provide them a more traditional comic book movie narrative.
They better remembered what Kevin Feige recently told Deadline when asked about Deadpool‘s success, “We’ve always said if there’s any ‘secret’ it’s respect the source material, understand the source material and then, any adaptation you make from the source material should be done only to enhance whatever the original pure spirit of the source material was. Deadpool hit on all cylinders with that.”
We’ll soon see if they pulled that off with Suicide Squad, and then, after that, who knows. Let’s see how much money Suicide Squad makes.
What would you rather see: a Harley Quinn solo movie, with maybe a guest appearance from her old bestie Poison Ivy, or a full-on team-up movie modeled after Birds of Prey? Or do you demand a “None of the Above” option because you have a better suggestion?