Harley Quinn: where next for her on the big screen?

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn performance in Suicide Squad was one of the few facets of the film that earned praise pretty much across the board. Regardless of the fact that a baseball bat-swinging former psychiatrist seems like an odd pick for an elite taskforce designed for the eventuality that the next Superman figure to come to Earth might be a bad ‘un, something about Harley chimed with audiences and critics.

Unsurprisingly, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros have big plans for Margot Robbie and Harley Quinn going forward. Here’s what we know, and some speculation, about her big screen future…

Gotham City Sirens

This one’s a sure thing: Margot Robbie will reprise Harley Quinn in Gotham City Sirens, a film focused on the female villains of Batman’s iconic stomping ground. Despite all the hoo-hah that surrounded Suicide Squad – the talk of studio interference, multiple cuts existing until the last minute, and so on – the film’s director David Ayer is returning to helm the Gotham City Sirens movie, making this a mini Suicide Squad reunion.

Ayer won’t write this one, though, as he did Suicide Squad. Geneva Robertson-Dworet, the scribe of the in-development cinematic projects Tomb Raider and Sherlock Holmes 3, has been brought in to pen the screenplay for Gotham City Sirens. John Berg and Geoff Johns, of DC Entertainment, are overseeing proceedings as producers. Robbie herself will act as an executive producer.

It’s believed that Catwoman and Poison Ivy will join Harley in the film. There’s been some noise online calling for Anne Hathaway to reprise Catwoman, despite the fact that The Dark Knight Rises is from a different filmic universe. And the top rumour for Poison Ivy has been Megan Fox, which sparked a bit of healthy debate on the web. So far, neither role has officially been cast. It’s believed that Batgirl could show up, as well.

We don’t currently know what the story will be or how Harley will fit into it. Will this be a group of criminals teaming up to do something good, a la Suicide Squad? Or perhaps a group of criminals teaming up to do something bad, a la something-like-but-not-necessarily-the-same-as Ocean’s Eleven? A bit of both, maybe? Or neither?

There was a Gotham City Sirens comic book series, which ran from 2009 to 2011, which could provide some clues. Therein, Catwoman robbed the Batman villain Hush as an act of revenge and redistributed his dosh to the female criminals of Gotham City. Ivy was living with Harley, in a hideout that Ivy stole from the Riddler using her mind control plant-based powers.

This triumvirate of baddies formed an alliance, vowing to protect each other, and ended up tackling a wide variety of random problems. It’s unclear if the movie will follow this story thread, but there’s plenty to mine – including a Joker story or two – if that’s the route they decide to go down.

It’s also worth pointing out that the relationship between Harley and Ivy utterly sizzles in the comics, and grows over time into a romantic connection. Again, whether or not they’d carry that through to the movie remains to be seen.

Adventures with Mr J

Speaking of the Joker, the ending of Suicide Squad certainly suggests that Harley’s story with him isn’t over. She seems happy to see him when he busts into her prison cell. She excitedly proclaims “puddin’!” and the pair of makeup-loving mayhem masters share an embrace. Joker says “let’s go home”, and the credits roll.

It’s interesting, then – and perhaps indicative of Warner Bros’ reaction to the reviews of Suicide Squad – that the next movie to feature Harley Quinn is not a straight-up Harley and Joker movie. Gotham City Sirens seems to be Robbie’s next gig in the DC universe, implying that Warners would rather put her at centre stage than Jared Leto’s Joker.

Perhaps Gotham City Sirens will begin with Harley and the Joker together, to tie in with Suicide Squad’s ending, before ditching The Clown Prince Of Crime and letting his other half lead the movie. That would certainly be an interesting place to start, and it would make room for some hefty character development on Harley’s part.

Besides being a big fan of the Joker, who is she? What, if anything, remains of her former personality as Dr Harleen Quinzel? And if that’s all gone, what has replaced it? Is having the Joker’s babies really her primary fantasy, as Suicide Squad suggested, or are there some different, darker ambitions lurking beneath the surface? If Harley and the Joker do split in the opening act of Gotham City Sirens, it would be nice to have some of these questions answered.

Indeed, the chances of seeing a movie that purely focuses on the criminal escapades of Harley and Joker seems unlikely at the moment. As much as it could be a fun, Bonnie and Clyde sort of story, Warner Bros seems more interested in Harley making some new friends. Perhaps Jared Leto sent a few too many used condoms to people.

Getting the squad back together

Before Suicide Squad had even come out, word on the web suggested that work on a sequel was underway. Were such a film to happen, we would expect all surviving squad members from the first film to make an appearance, with Amanda Waller getting her taskforce back together for another dangerous mission in a dodgy area.

Even though Harley was on her way out of prison at the end of the first film, I’m not sure you could make a Suicide Squad sequel without her. Nobody likes Will Smith’s Deadshot that much. They would surely write in some excuse for Margot Robbie’s villainess to return and help out her old buddies/forced-on-fear-of-death teammates.

However, since Suicide Squad came out – and, perhaps significantly, the reviews were published – talk of Suicide Squad 2 has slowed to a standstill. Instead of announcing that Ayer was set to start work on it, Warner Bros revealed that he’d jumped ships to Gotham City Sirens instead.

Jai Courtney – who put in one of his best performances in Suicide Squad, as Captain Boomerang – was cornered by We Got This Covered in early December and asked whether Suicide Squad 2 would happen:

“I actually have no idea, I pray the answer is yes,” he admitted. “I certainly don’t feel like I’m done with that character. I had a lot of fun playing him, and I don’t feel like anyone is done with that franchise, certainly not yet. So, I hope so, sooner or later. The studio is very busy at the moment, director David Ayer is directing something else at the moment, but I’m sure they have plans, just none that they’ve shared with me”.

Suicide Squad made a decent enough pile of dosh at the box office, so I’d be surprised if Warner Bros decided to ditch the franchise for good. But for now a follow-up doesn’t seem to be a priority. If it ever does happen, Harley would be a shoo-in, even if the Joker has disabled the bomb in her head. Perhaps she would continue to help out of her own accord, because it’s a nice thing to do. Character development is a wonderful thing.

Becoming a proper villain?

Suicide Squad introduced a swathe of new villains to the DC Extended Universe, which previously only housed Zod, Lex Luthor and Doomsday. David Ayer’s flawed film brought in the ground level baddies that the previous two films were a bit too big for, with Will Smith, Jai Courtney, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie making particularly big impressions. What’s interesting is that nobody seems to be snapping up these premade baddies for their DC movies.

There’s been no announcement, for example, that Harley Quinn will be the villain – or one of the villains – in The Batman (which Batfleck and Geoff Johns are still honing the script for). Nor that Courtney will reprise Boomerang in The Flash (which still needs a director). Admittedly, the next lot of solo DC movies are still at early stages of development, so anything could yet happen.

It would certainly be fun to see Harley stepping into a more traditional supervillain role, enacting some dastardly scheme to terrorise the citizens of Gotham, with Batman having to find a way to stop her. Since the physical fight would be a bit one-sided, you’d need to have Harley coming up with a way to overpower or outsmart Batman. Watching her gloat when everything seems to be going to plan would definitely be a lot of fun.

I’d settle for something like a James Bond-style cold open, with Bats struggling through the final throes of a battle of the wits against Harley (and the Joker, if you like) in the opening scene of The Batman, before defeating them in style. Throw up the title card, and then get on with kicking off the main plot after that. Something along those lines could be a lot of fun, and a neat way of tying the universe together without overpowering the whole movie.

Heck, you could even place The Batman between Suicide Squad and Gotham City Sirens in the timeline, and use this cold open (or a different scene) to explain why the Joker isn’t around and Harley needs to make new friends in the next movie. Sadly, given that Affleck isn’t currently happy with the script for The Batman, I’d say that isn’t too likely. Gotham City Sirens seems to be on the fast track and will probably come out first, but that doesn’t mean the two films couldn’t connect in some way. We’ll have to wait and see, of course.

A solo story?

It’s interesting, and perhaps a signifier of some studio nervousness, that Harley Quinn is spinning out from Suicide Squad into another team-up movie full of famous comic book characters, rather than getting her own movie with her name in the title. Is there a hint of a lack of confidence in this idea – to stick her in a movie with Poison Ivy and Catwoman, instead of giving her a standalone story – or am I just being paranoid?

Maybe my gut is right, or maybe it’s not. Either way, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting Harley Quinn: The Movie – where she’s the one and only centre of attention – at any point in the near future. It’s a shame, because she stood out like a sore thumb in Suicide Squad as the one of the only characters with their own, worthwhile story to tell.

I could certainly imagine a movie that fills in her backstory a bit more – who was she before she sat down with the Joker for therapy sessions and things got way out of hand? What was her personality like before that? Was there something that happened in her life that made her vulnerable to the Joker’s psychological temptations?

Equally, Harley is an interesting enough character that you could strip away everything else – the household name characters, the fun cameos – and you’d still have enough for a movie. Just her on a crime spree for two hours, trying to avoid the cops and keep her fractured mind together, would be very watchable, and probably not very expensive to make. Or you could even spin Harley into a Deadpool-esque antihero, if you wanted. I’ve no doubt she could carry her own movie, especially with Robbie’s star rising all the time.

But Gotham City Sirens is what we’re getting, for the time being at least. If that movie can make bank, perhaps Harley’s solo chances will increase. Or maybe Warners will just find another ensemble movie to drop her in. Either way, as long as Robbie keeps returning to the role that she plays so well, I probably shouldn’t complain.

Gotham City Sirens doesn’t have a release date or a supporting cast just yet, but we’ll be sure to bring you the latest updates as they happen…

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