It’s fair to say that 2016 hasn’t been the best year for DC’s Cinematic Universe. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released to polarizing reviews from both critics and fans alike — the debates are still tearing up forums on the internet — and Suicide Squad generated a similar response, the latter being criticized for its messy narrative and convoluted storyline, both of which caused critics groan. Hell, one fan even petitioned for aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes to be shut down following the overwhelming negative reviews for Suicide Squad. As Independent reported, nothing came about from this despite a 7,000-strong petition.
Yet, despite the negative reviews for their 2016 line-up, DC have already started to plan for the future. In the aftermath of the negativity, fans have seen promising trailers for Justice League and Wonder Woman, and heard news on the Ben Affleck-led solo Batman movie, a film that already has fans in a frenzy. In a surprise turn of events, even the first tangible appearance of Aquaman had people’s interest piqued. It seems DC have a lot up their creative sleeve heading into 2017, some of which we have yet to see, and they shouldn’t be underestimated.
One blueprint on DC’s comic book desk is a proposed Harley Quinn spin-off movie. Following the financial success of Suicide Squad — the film is expected to gross over $700 million when it finishes in cinemas — and the major publicity the character generated well before the film was released to the masses, the project was always a genuine candidate. Harley is one of the more popular characters in the Batman mythos, and fans are baffled as to why she wasn’t turned into a movie franchise sooner. We know the demand is there for an adaptation, but many are still speculating that it’s too soon for a Harley Quinn solo movie. Is this really the case?
If you go off the evidence of her portrayal in Suicide Squad, the answer is a resounding yes, especially considering the idea that is rumored to be in place. Earlier in 2016, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that DC are working on a female-centric superhero/villain movie starring a whole host of female characters, names of which have yet to be revealed. A female writer is also attached to the script, and although Batgirl and Birds of Prey were alluded to as potential characters, and are the likely candidates considering DC’s back catalogue, the biggest driving force behind this project is Margot Robbie herself.
The actress is set to produce the film should it happen, and after falling in love with Harley and other DC female characters during her in-depth research for Suicide Squad, she approached Warner Bros. directly to get the project off the ground. Margot Robbie is expected to reprise her role as Harley Quinn, which could coincide with her multi-picture deal with Warner Bros, and although this deal probably includes any Suicide Squad sequels and the solo Batman movie, might there be room for a solo Harley Quinn movie too? Could this be the second female-headed DC film behind Wonder Woman? Considering that Quinn’s comic books outsell the Amazonian’s on a regular basis, this is looking more likely by the day.
But, it comes back to one thing; is it too soon?
In Suicide Squad, Harley was introduced to the masses for the very first time. Despite a roster of DC heavyweights on the ensemble cast, she was the highlight of the movie, and more than held her own with the likes of Deadshot, Killer Croc, Diablo and The Enchantress. She even stood firm in the face of the Joker, something that even Batman has struggled to do in two previous features. However, her character still has much more to do before going solo, and following the events of Suicide Squad, especially the ending, a solo movie could seem a little rushed. Her character is underdeveloped at present; sure, she shone in an ensemble cast, and nabbed a stunning-yet-brief origin story, one that could be elaborated on in future movies, but the fact remains that, in Suicide Squad, her character was assisted and enhanced by the others around her.
And that’s the key indicator. For decades, Harley Quinn was a prisoner to the Joker; she never left his side, despite their abusive relationship, and this was more than obvious during the movie. It even inspired the ending. On a parallel line, she relied on the members of the Squad in more than one way during the film, and they relied on her too, but Quinn’s character is infamous for being a cohort, a second-in-command, or part of a team, and where a female-centric movie could have her striking out on her own, she can’t do that yet — not without damaging or reverting the character after one movie, a method that could alienate or offend fans or viewers.
Besides, we haven’t seen enough of Harley and Joker yet. When Harley struck out on her own in the comics, Joker’s constant abuse and mistreatment was the deciding factor. We need to see that happen, it’s a major — if not the most important — change in Harley’s character, and fans have clamored to watch it on the big screen for years. Her naiveté and victimization are two of her most endearing qualities — men and women can relate to her, and when she finally made her stand, people were instantly behind her. It’s what made her such a popular character in the source material to begin with — to skip over this would be a disaster for Warner Bros. and DC.
So, she isn’t ready to fly solo — not yet, anyway. And where Suicide Squad 2 would be a sensible solution to further enhance the character, the ending of the first movie indicates something else is afoot. Now in the arms of her beloved Mr J, Quinn could become part of a psychopathic double act, a comic book version of Bonnie and Clyde, so to speak. Few will forget the purple Lamborghini screeching around the streets of Gotham in Suicide Squad, it was a truly memorable scene, one that showed Harley and Joker in their natural habitat. With Batman putting a stop to this, and the two reuniting at the end of Suicide Squad, could their plans of revenge make them a shoo-in for the solo Batman movie?
With the reveal of Deathstroke via Ben Affleck’s Twitter feed this week — footage that already has Slade Wilson linked with the solo Batman movie and a Justice League cameo — an appearance by everyone’s favorite criminal couple is looking unlikely. However, nothing has been confirmed yet, and a lot can happen before the Batman movie is finished and produced. Let’s not forget that the Harley Quinn movie is currently mooted to be an ensemble affair, and we know she can shine in those. She did so in Suicide Squad with minimal effort, but if she gets a solo movie, it should be just that – a solo movie, a vehicle utilized to make the character shine, and elevate her to the echelons of DC royalty.
And this is why it’s too soon; Harley Quinn isn’t ready to do that just yet. Batman and Superman have featured in cinema for decades, Wonder Woman has dominated comics for years, and even Joker has outshone Batman in pretty much any medium the two feature in. In contrast, Harley has just the one film under her very-revealing belt. Yes, the character has come to prominence in recent years via video games, cartoons, merchandise, comic books, and numerous cosplay outfits around the globe, but this is more the reason that a solo movie should wait. People love the character, adore her even, and rushing her movie to production just smacks of desperation in the light of financial success. You don’t want to offend the die-hard fans, or the new fans that have come about, by doing this.
With Suicide Squad 2 almost certain due to the financial success of the original, a host of new DC characters now established in the mind of cinemagoers, and multiple vehicles placed in the DC universe that can tweak and develop Harley herself, it makes sense to wait for her spin-off movie. A Suicide Squad sequel would be the perfect canvas on which to develop the character. She can also appear in Justice League, Batman, or a host of other movies in the meantime, so it makes sense for DC to take their time with her. After all, she’s a hot property at the moment; people will be happy to wait if the studio makes the film in the correct way.
Harley Quinn took years to come to the screen, thus the fans will be patient in order to see her treated correctly. It’s better to take your time and honor the fans, the people who make the films worthwhile, than do it because of the bank balance. If 2016 showed DC anything, it’s that the fans will pay to see the movie. Negative reviews or not, they have an audience who will pay to see Harley portrayed correctly, which is all the ammunition they need to schedule the film when the time is right.
Suicide Squad is showing in cinemas now.
[Image via Warner Bros. Pictures]