Harley Quinn is having a great 2020 already, not that she suffered much for popularity in the 2010s. These days, you can see her both in live action and animation, and she’s crushing it across all media. Hell, even Harley Quinn Smith is entering the 2020s on a high note. The real star right now is Margot Robbie and her movie version of Harley.
Although Robbie’s hyped-up debut as the Joker’s clown princess in Suicide Squad garnered mixed reviews, critics are already loving her latest, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
It’s not hard to see why – for one, Robbie is an amazing incarnation of Quinn, something that was proven already by Suicide Squad, a movie in which Harley was not among the problems people had. In fact, Harley Quinn has been a fan favorite among comic book afficianados ever since her first appearance in the September 1992 Batman: The Animated Series.
She’s since appeared throughout Batman comics and games, but she was mostly relegated to Joker’s sidekick and girlfriend. This is where her first movie appearance dropped the ball. It didn’t understand the complicated relationship between Joker and Quinn. It tried to turn it into a Hollywood love story, leaving fans entirely unimpressed.
But this time is different. This time DC is doing Harley Quinn’s character right…mostly.
Birds of Prey follows the same theme as Harley Quinn, the animated series on DC Universe and Adult Swim starring Big Bang Theory alum Kaley Cuoco as the voice of Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn. This animated series is a gem that if you haven’t seen yet, you should.
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It casts Quinn as an antihero and pairs her with a rogue’s gallery of partners, including Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), Clayface (Alan Tudyk, who also voices Joker), King Shark (Ron Funches), Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale) and Frank the Plant (J.B. Smoove). It also plays with the relationships of Batman, Robin, Joker, and Commissioner Gordon in a fresh new way, while maintaining a brilliant cartoon look.
Wherever you watch her story, Quinn breaks up with Joker, earns the ire of the criminal underworld over it, and strikes out to make a name for herself with the help of friends. She transitions from Joker’s sidekick (and sidechick) into her own woman and kicks everyone’s ass in the process.
Harley’s story is similar to Joker’s, but it tells the tale of a woman scorned by White American Male Angst, making it a more globally relatable story.
And that’s saying something, since Joker did so well in theaters.
On-screen, Joker breaks up with Harley, literally throwing her out on the streets of Gotham. She then goes on a break-up binge with an adorable hyena she adopts, and it’s not long before she’s fighting against the mob. Her team this time include Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), while her main enemy is Black Mask (Ewan MGregor), whom Gotham PD Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is trying to put in jail.
Quinn protects Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) when Black Mask places a hit on her, creating the chaos that ensues and is wrapped up neatly by the end of the story arc.
Overall, critics seem to agree it’s a movie that’s worth seeing if you’re a fan of Harley Quinn. I think you should also be watching the animated series that bears her name. DC finally figured out what to do with this character, and it’s brilliant. The movie won’t have time to fit in all the nuances of her break-up with Joker and how it affects those around her, but the first 10-episode season of the animated series, paired with Birds of Prey, is a winning binge in my book.