The second Birds of Prey trailer debuted on Thursday ahead of the films February release date. Whereas the other trailer for the film set viewers up for a Joker-less Harley, this one is more about what’s in the movie than what’s not (i.e. the Joker). The trailer gives fans a lot, at least when it comes to lingering questions they’ve had about the movie. First, we see Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis in his alter-ego’s eponymous Black Mask. We see Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary unleash her powerful Canary cry against a group of thugs (and a martini glass). Finally, the second trailer reveals that Birds of Prey is, much like DC Universe’s Harley Quinn animated series, about her finding her own crew.
Margot Robbie apparently lobbied for this film during the filming of Suicide Squad. Yet, she realized that Harley doesn’t quite work as a solo act. This is not to say that she needs the Joker (though, so far, every live-action or animated story about her centers on him or his absence). Rather, this means that Harley works best as part of an ensemble. This is what the rest of the Birds of Prey will bring to the film. It also gives the DC Extended Universe the path to turning Harley from a villain to a(n anti-)hero.
How the Second Trailer for Birds of Prey Signals Harley’s Eventual Heroics
Image via screengrab
The problem that the DC Universe Harley Quinn series has (and this may be by design) is giving Harley a genuine motivation to be a villain. Her villainy was not a result of some pain or trauma from her past, but rather the pain and trauma inflicted on her by the Joker. Their story (likely unintentionally) is an incredible metaphor for the insidious way abusive relationships breakdown their victims. The Joker convinced Harley that she had little worth without him. Her commitment to villainy comes from him convincing her that she has no redeeming or heroic qualities. Simply put, she’s not “good enough” to be good. This is why DC, especially at this moment in history, is working so hard to separate her from her puddin’.
Still, the rules of comic book movies are very different from the rules of comic books. In the second trailer for Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn kills (or, at least, manslaughters) at least four people. Yet, during the pair of scenes from her assault on a police precinct, it’s very clear that she’s using non-lethal beanbags (er, glitterbags) against the police. Like the Huntress (played in this film by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), she kills but only the “bad guys.” Of course, she also inhales a bunch of cocaine which, the film seems to suggest, gives her near-super powers. But, always in the Joker’s shadow, Harley’s film is rated R, a first for the DCEU.
Harley Quinn’s Billion-Dollar Gamble
Image via screengrab
Warner Bros. was no doubt surprised when Joker became the first-ever R-rated film to earn a billion dollars. To the studio, this signaled that the audience for comic book films was so great that an R-rated film can deliver a return on their investment. Yet, is Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn a film that can do that? Or does Harley now face the same problem faced by Star Wars? Even if the film grosses hundreds of millions of dollars, if it doesn’t cross the $1 billion threshold, will Warner Bros. see it as a failure?
Now, any rational person would realize that Suicide Squad didn’t come close to reaching $1 billion. All things being equal, earning about $740-plus million would make this film a resounding success. Hell, given the bad cultural taste Suicide Squad left in our mouths, earning even a little less should be a “win” for Robbie and company. But now this film will be compared to Joker because of its rating.
Joker, like so many award-worthy films, took itself very seriously, almost to the point of pretension. The tone of Birds of Prey seems to be closer to Legends of Tomorrow than the Todd Phillips’ film. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all, so will it have the same sort of legs as the controversial art-piece it will undoubtedly be compared to? Again, all things being equal, this movie should do much better. Yet, comic book movie fans are a fickle lot. It feels like the film’s tone and its R rating are working at odds rather than in tandem.
Birds of Prey releases February 7, 2020.
What do you think of the second trailer for Birds of Prey? Are you excited for the film? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.