The first Suicide Squad film was, um, not great—so Warner Bros. went back to the drawing board. Jared Leto’s try-hard, “my favorite rapper is Tekashi 6ix9ine” Joker from the original Suicide Squad film is being replaced by Joaquin Phoenix’s incel Joker in a stand-alone feature, while James Gunn is getting his own Suicide Squad with an almost entirely rebooted cast. Meanwhile, Margot Robbie gets to pull double duty between Gunn’s Suicide Squad and her own spinoff movie, 2020’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)—yes, that’s really the full title—which dropped its first trailer on Tuesday.
Trying to keep track of all the DC Extended Universe reshufflings is a part-time job in and of itself, but the important thing to remember is that Warners seems to be eschewing the crowd-pleasing corporate synergy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for wackier one-offs that don’t necessarily need to become franchise staples. And that’s where Birds of Prey comes in. Heading into the film, Robbie’s Harley Quinn has broken up with the Joker—and more importantly, Batman is absent from Gotham City. (Perhaps he is off somewhere removing his back tattoo—oh wait, Robert Pattinson is Batman now and good god these movies are a mess.) So Harley and her new ensemble—featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, and Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya—get to run rampant across the city.
The results, at least in the trailer, are spectacular(ly chaotic), with a vibrant aesthetic that looks a lot more palatable than the disjointed, migraine-inducing mayhem of Suicide Squad:
It’s hard to pick a favorite moment, but the inclusion of two CGI hyenas is a great touch. (In Batman: The Animated Series, Harley has pet hyenas named Bud and Lou, so this wasn’t just a random creative decision.) After the 2019 version of The Lion King turned its own CGI hyenas into unholy creatures that looked like they’d spent too much time hunting near Chernobyl, it’s nice to see Bud and Lou looking impressively lifelike while eating Twizzlers(?) with Harley:
There’s also the erstwhile Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor, as the villain Black Mask. (It would behoove Birds of Prey to include a scene where he informs Harley Quinn that their fight is over because he has the high ground.) Chris Messina—as the serial killer Victor Zsasz—also shows up with bleached-blond hair, the most compelling evidence to date that he should supplant Chris Pratt in the always-brewing Hollywood Chris Wars.
But the thing about Birds of Prey that I’m most excited about doesn’t come from the trailer. Christina Hodson, the writer responsible for last year’s Transformers spinoff Bumblebee, which had no right to be as good as it was, wrote the screenplay for Birds of Prey. Hodson’s a relatively new name—she had only two screenwriting credits prior to Bumblebee—but she’s also being tabbed to write the DCEU’s stand-alone Batgirl movie. As the kids say: Watch this space.
And, of course, this is great news for Robbie, a mercurial talent who did her best in Suicide Squad with some seriously underwhelming material. It looks like she’s finally getting a DCEU production that will let her actually display all of her talents—the trailer even suggests we might be in store for a Harley Quinn musical number. Sign me up. In fact, let’s just table this weekend’s Joker release and put Birds of Prey in its stead. The only thing that could make Birds of Prey more exciting is if it was revealed that one of the creatures from the Aquaman Trench was also making a cameo. (WEBBED, SCALY FINGERS CROSSED!)
The days of Batman and Superman ending their fight because their moms are both named Martha and Leto-Joker laughing in the middle of an elaborately placed collection of knives are mercifully over. The new DCEU continues to be exciting thanks to its sheer unpredictability. You go to the MCU and, for better or worse, get exactly what you paid for. Now, you go to the DCEU to get a little weird. Birds of Prey looks like no exception. As first impressions go, it could well be the gold standard.