Gotham Citys lovable crime queen is bigged up in Cathy Yans forthcoming movie, leaving Batman and co in the shade

Who needs Batman, the Joker, or indeed the other members of the Birds of Prey, when you have Harley Quinn? That seems to be the position taken by Cathy Yan, director of Margot Robbies sophomore turn as Gotham Citys lovable queen of crime. The debut trailer for Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) focuses in hard on Robbie, with barely a glimpse of the other members of the DC ensemble: Mary Elizabeth Winsteads Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bells Black Canary and Ella Jay Bascos Cassandra Cain.

Batman and the Joker are missing, perhaps because Warner Bros has pretty much given up an integrated DC Extended Universe to focus, instead, on releasing quality individual efforts free from a wider web of saga-building. The last Batman encountered by Quinn, Ben Affleck, has been retired in favour of a new caped crusader for the forthcoming The Batman, to be played by Robert Pattinson. And its hard to argue that this isnt for the best given the dark knight chose to punch out Robbie before snogging her back to life in 2016s ill-fated Suicide Squad.

Meanwhile, the Australian actors most recent screen partner as Mr J, the much underused Jared Leto, appears highly unlikely to return to in the role. Its not yet clear if Joaquin Phoenixs version of the clown prince of Gotham City will be back for further DC adventures after his fantabulous debut in Todd Phillipss Joker, so it probably makes sense to omit the supervillain while Warner works out where to go next. The only mention of Quinns squeeze in the new trailer is a dismissive one: our (anti) heroine has split up with her partner in crime, and it appears it was not an easy break-up given that she is aiming darts at a mock-up of his features.

And so we have a movie that places Robbie front and centre, just as Suicide Squad tried to do, despite that movie also ostensibly being an ensemble effort.

Achieving decent box office Suicide Squad (2016). Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Alamy

Time will tell whether this is a wise venture. Warner Bros knows the Robbie-Quinn combo is a thing of twisted splendour that this spiky, tragic Gotham dame is its DC diamond in the rough. Dismissed by the critics and ruined by over-zealous studio interference in its edit, Suicide Squad nonetheless zoomed to a more than decent $746.8m (600m) at the global box office, presumably largely the result of those zippy trailers with Robbie taking centre stage.

Will she repeat the trick in Birds of Prey? Or will the other characters move to the fore in the final movie? Will Quinn be a Raymond Chandleresque narrator throughout? Or will Yan opt for a cheeky switcheroo in the final cut? Warner has a habit of making unreliable trailers, so its hard to tell.

Suicide Squad preferred wacky visuals over characterisation, and while Robbie had more screen time than her bad-guy counterparts we never really got under her skin. So its unsurprising that Birds of Prey seems poised to give us the Harley Quinn movie fans have longed to see ever since her promo for Suicide Squad. Yet there has to be more to Birds of Prey, or why wouldnt Warner just title this one after its leading figure?

Much will come down to Ewan McGregors Black Mask: not the most infamous of Batman supervillains in print, nor the most widely known. But cinema can shake up comic book hierarchies with deft casting and charismatic performances. Still, McGregor will have to grab Quinns trademark baseball bat and knock this one out of the park if he is to convince audiences that the Joker and his fellow Gotham miscreants are best left lurking in the shadows.



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