After the box office success of DC’s Suicide Squad, it seemed their was no film based on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, the fan-favorite cast member, that Warner Bros. wouldn’t consider. There was the inevitable, partial-reboot Suicide Squad sequel of course, but eventually reports of a Joker and Harley movie, and Gotham City Sirens project fell through… leaving only Birds Of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
A title no fan could remember, but one that has come to mean more than anyone would have guessed when they first heard it. On the surface, it makes the most important point of Harley’s next stage: breaking up with the Joker. Framing it as a purely positive twist that Harley should be freed from Joker’s influence (a love story that even confused Margot Robbie), writer Christina Hodson would eventually confirm the extended Birds of Prey title was a joke at first. But as the stories of Harley, Huntress, Canary, Cass, and Renee began to take shape, the meaning of the lighthearted title changed. Now it’s a short version of the whole Birds of Prey story: women not necessarily even rescuing each other, but rescuing themselves.
Screen Rant had the opportunity to visit the set of Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) during production in March, where we spoke with the film’s crew, cast, and director about the next entry in DC’s unconnected movie universe. While it was made clear that Birds of Prey isn’t a follow-up to Suicide Squad, it’s still dealing with Harley’s emancipation from Joker (the version of the story every comic fan knows, without referring to a specific telling). But then… this isn’t just a Harley Quinn movie.
Any confusion over the decision to keep Hodson’s joke subtitle was dispelled when the idea of emancipation, growth, and progress kept rearing its head during our time on set. Even if this is a story told from Harley Quinn’s point of view, the themes are spread across every single character:
It’s really Harley’s story, as well as all of these women’s stories. And in a way their stories kind of echo each other. So when our title includes ‘The Emancipation of One Harley Quinn’ that is essentially the story that she goes on. We find her basically without the Joker at the beginning of the film, and through the film she learns that she doesn’t need anyone but herself. She doesn’t necessarily make friends with the other women, but they come together, and through that they all sort of emancipate themselves throughout the film.
That indication that Birds of Prey won’t be the sisterhood/’girl power’ brand of team-up some fans might expect continued, with every member of the filmmaking team stopping short of even referring to the movie’s cast as a ‘team’ by the finale. As producer Bryan Unkeless explains, that is also an extension of the ’emancipation’ idea — that the journey is about independence, first and foremost:
We’re so accustomed to having heroes and villains, and I think this movie lives a little bit more in the grey. Where some of the people can do villainous things but not be completely made of bad. There’s a lot of ways to understand them, and get a little bit of perspective. Each of our characters, but specifically the female characters, we are finding at really interesting and unique transitionary times in their lives. That’s where that ‘emancipation’ word–they’re emancipating themselves from something. Whether it’s the circumstances that they’re working within, or some kind of patriarchal system, or an emotional relationship, or whatever it may be. But because of the vulnerability that comes from that, people act in sometimes good, and sometimes bad ways. It’s hopefully a bit more nuanced.
There’s no question fans will appreciate imperfect heroines, with Harley Quinn’s own popularity paying testament to that shortage int the superhero genre. And if the Birds’ tendencies to do both good and bad is rooted in their best efforts to free themselves from… something, it can only make their characters more interesting, not less. Stay tuned to Screen Rant for more interviews and details from our Birds of Prey set visit!
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