As the title suggests, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn sees Margot Robbie‘s take on the iconic comic book character finally break free of the Joker on the big screen (which she has done in the comics many, many times), teaming up with Huntress, Canary, Renee Montoya, and Cassandra Cain to take on the new big bad in town — Black Mask.
Considering the last time we saw Harley in 2016’s Suicide Squad, she was very much still hooked on her Puddin’ Mister Jay, you might be wondering how the timeline shakes down between the two movies? But don’t expect any firm answers.
Earlier this year, we joined a group of journalists on the set of Birds of Prey at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California, where we had the opportunity to chat with director Cathy Yan, and the filmmaker explained that her film has a timeline all its own.
When asked if there was a specific amount of time passed since we saw Harley in Suicide Squad, Yan replied “There is not any known amount of time. No… it kind of exists in a parallel timeline”
Now, Yan probably isn’t talking about a literal science-fiction parallel universe scenario, but if Joker proved anything, it’s that Warner Bros. is willing to take some chances with their DC properties right now and they don’t all have to fit in the same continuity.
Yan continued, reflecting on how Birds of Prey was an opportunity to dig into Harley’s character without having to focus on the Joker. “With Suicide Squad she’s so connected to the Joker. I mean, their story is so intertwined. It really is their love story if you will. But this is not. And so I think that gave us a lot of opportunity to say like what is she like, not necessarily post-Joker but just in almost like a parallel universe, and allowed all of us the freedom to say like we’re gonna create a different Gotham.”
Indeed, the sets and stages on the Birds of Prey set painted a new image of Gotham that seems spun from the mind of Harley Quinn — bright colors and lively imagery, far removed from the gritty urban landscape of Suicide Squad, with a vibrant, almost animated heightened quality. And there’s a reason for that; this movie is a story told by Harley Quinn, through her eyes. Which might explain the timeline question even more. If there’s one thing we know about Harley, and that Robbie, Yan, and producer Sue Kroll all reinforced, it’s that Harley Quinn is not a reliable narrator.
“Harley is the narrator of the story, a very unreliable, erratic narrator, which is fun,” Robbie said, “but it also gives, I think, the audience an opportunity to kind of be inside her brain sometimes and see the world through her eyes at times.”
Kroll echoed that sentiment, explaining, “Harley obviously is very unique right? Her point of view on the world is very specific. So imagine that you are looking at the world through her eyes and her rationale and reason… that’s where the spirit of the movie comes from.”
But that certainly doesn’t mean Harley will be unrecognizable from Robbie’s take on the character that audiences fell in love with in Suicide Squad. “Of course we do keep certain things that are very Harley-esque,” Yan said. “Like her tattoos have remained the same. Her hair is a little different, but it feels like a natural like arc to her character from Suicide Squad. And she still remains recognizable I think.”
Birds of Prey arrives in theaters on February 6, 2020.