Each DC Comics movie seems to be marching to the beat of its own drum lately, despite sharing a connected universe. Movies such as Aquaman and Shazam! did little to acknowledge the larger world which their titular characters inhabit. Both films ended up being hits with critics, fans, and the box office. Now, it looks like Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is going to follow suit despite Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn character having appeared in 2016's Suicide Squad movie. ComicBook.com spent time on the set of Birds of Prey, learning about its isolated nature which won't exist entirely in its own world as Joker did.
While there does not seem to be any other actors from Suicide Squad popping up in Birds of Prey aside from Robbie, the story threads can be better strung up as themes for the character which don't rely on knowledge of her previous appearance.
"I think something I explored a lot in Suicide Squad, the first film, was Harley's co-dependence with the Joker," Robbie said. "And obviously, he has a huge influence on her. But, obviously, she was very much in a relationship with him when we first saw Harley onscreen in Suicide Squad. And I did want to explore what is the version of Harley out of a relationship, and whether she's out of a relationship on her own accord or he's kind of kicked her to the curb. But it still affects her, but in a very different way. And I thought we'd see a very different facet of her personalities. Personalities, I would say. Because I think she has multiple."
As a result, Harley will be an unreliable narrator of the Birds of Prey movie. In other words, be ready for a twisted adventure in which things might not be what they seem. As it turns out, Robbie first hatched the idea for a Birds of Prey movie while shooting Suicide Squad.
"Looking at Harley specifically, I'd say her aesthetic is kind of dictated on her relationship status, and whether she's in a relationship with Joker, you're going to get the version of Harley that is what you see in Suicide Squad. And then this version, where she's clearly not with the Joker, and it is erratic and it's different."
Director Cathy Yan fully embraced the challenge of picking up a character introduced in Suicide Squad but creating enough distance from the film to have her own version of Harley and the DC world on display. "Yeah, it's definitely a challenge because you want to pay homage to not just the comic books but then also the films before it," Yan said. "And obviously we've seen Margot play Harley before in Suicide Squad. And so, you know, it's definitely a fun challenge to figure out like what do we keep from that's version of Harley in one way differentiate."
Yan strongly equates the absence of Joker to a disconnection from the previous film. "I think that given what the story's about and her emancipation and that she's out on her own and she's not connected the Joker and with Suicide Squad, she's so connected to the Joker," Yan said. "I mean their story is so intertwined and it really is a love story, if you will. And 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, I think all of us freedom to say like we're going to create a different Gotham."
In this film, Harley's hair is different. Her costume is different. Her language is R-rated, so that's different, too. Yan promises she is "recognizable"" but admits that even her white skin is "less thickly white."
As for when the two movies take place by comparison to each other: "There is not any known amount of time" between the two movies according to Yan. "We kind of exist in a parallel timeline."
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) hits theaters on February 7.