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SYFY WIRE Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Birds of Prey filmmakers say unreliable narrator Harley Quinn sets the tone: ‘It’s not Bruce Wayne’s Gotham’

By Jacob Oller
Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey

The R-rated Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is the next superhero film fans will see in cinemas, and it’s taking a few notes from DC’s latest and greatest standalone comic adaptation, Joker. Specifically, it’s not playing by anyone’s rules but its own. The film sees star/producer Margot Robbie take Harley Quinn and her Gotham setting in a very, very different direction from her supporting role in Suicide Squad. In fact, it’s a direction completely influenced by the character’s own (completely warped) point of view.

Thanks to director Cathy Yan and writer Christina Hodson, Quinn’s team-up with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) to protect Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) will see its tone reflect its protagonist’s state of mind. Which is to say, a little off-kilter. Speaking with Total Film, Robbie explained that “Harley’s telling you the story, and because of that, you’re definitely getting her version of events.”

“The world is poppy and colorful and absurd at times,” Robbie said. “But then s**t gets real, especially when you’re spending time with some of the other characters who do exist in a more grounded way. But for the most part, I would say that the tone of the film is Harley-esque.” Not only is the narrator unreliable in a storytelling sense, the aesthetics of Birds of Prey will change to match the perspective of the characters in the scene.

Yan confirmed as much, noting that they “get away” with doing “amazing, crazy things” because it’s told through Harley’s fantastical and skewed point of view. And when Black Mask or Chris Messina’s scarred serial killer Victor Zsasz is in charge, expect it to feel novel in a different way — but with no Batman (or any Batman-like tonal influences) in sight. Smollett-Bell wrapped it up succinctly: “It’s not Bruce Wayne’s Gotham.”

It’s also not Suicide Squad’s Gotham or even James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad’s Gotham. Robbie was adamant that these iterations all exist separately — even if she plays the same character across each DCEU film. “Tonally, David Ayer’s world looks different to [Birds’] world, which will look different to James’ world,” she said of the many recent versions of Dr. Harleen Quinzel.

Birds of Prey introduces its own warped superheroine story when it hits theaters on Feb. 7.