With Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker set to explode at the weekend box office, Warner Brothers decided to remind audiences of another super villain franchise film in the works.
So on Wednesday it dropped the trailer for Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
Now, admittedly Margot Robbie’s Harley was the best thing going for David Ayer’s turgid Suicide Squad (2016). But the DC banner isn’t the selling point it used to be.
The jousting between Marvel and DC bears a little similarity to this year’s AFL grand final.
The Marvel Cinematic universe is like the Richmond football club – seemingly unstoppable, producing goal after goal after goal.
DC is like the GWS Giants – matchless off-field resources but we keep waiting for them to turn up, and are almost surprised when they manage the occasional score.
DC has as many hits as misses, with Wonder Woman, Shazam! and Aquaman in the black column of the ledger, but Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League (i.e. the ones directed by Zack Snyder) striking out.
So, for DC/Warner at least, a lot depends on the success of Birds of Prey.
So, what to make of the trailer?
Well, Harley has broken up with her mooning, grinning boyfriend, we know that.
But given Robbie’s effortless charisma, who needs the Joker when you can steal the show on your own?
Director Cathy Yan’s superhero saga looks female-centric enough to cause Incels the world over to take to their keyboards from their mothers’ basements in outrage.
Harley’s pale-faced, green-haired boyfriend might be gone, but she has a new haircut, a change of attire (her name on her shirt rather than Joker’s) and, most importantly, a new posse.
Harley has gathered around her Gotham City cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the Black Canary/Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell from Friday Night Lights) and the crossbow-wielding Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
The women assemble to protect teenage Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from the evil clutches of gang lord Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Seemingly before he becomes Black Mask, since Roman’s ensemble is noticeably maskless.
The signs are there though: During a Marilyn Monroe-inspired dance number in Roman’s club (or Madonna-inspired depending on your perspective) the dancers behind Harley are masked.
Harley has a point to prove, regardless, as she shouts to Roman, “I’m the one they should be scared of. Not you. Not Mr J. Because I’m Harley Freaking Quinn.”
Harley has every cause for confidence as the trailer shows her pet hyena from Batman: The Animated Series will be trotting at her side, right down to a Lady and the Tramp Twizzler-eating scene.
“Isn’t this fun? It’s just like a sleepover. We should order pizza! Make cosmos!” squeals Harley, as she wields her mallet, dropkicks some goons and struts away from an exploding building, bringing to mind one of her ex-boyfriend’s Dark Knight highlights.
There’s more to come from Harley too: Director James Gunn (of Guardians of the Galaxy Fame) has just started production on The Suicide Squad with a returning cast of Robbie, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman and Jai Courtney, being joined by new chums Idris Elba, John Cena, Taika Waititi, Peter Capaldi, Pete Davidson and Nathan Fillion.
Let’s hope this tasty morsel is enough for audiences to adopt a more forgiving mood over Suicide Squad, which also had a great trailer.
A common problem with DC Universe – certainly with Suicide Squad – is that audiences are over-noisy finales where the heroes face off against formless inter-dimensional forces.
There’s always another damn gate to another damn world that needs to be closed before chaos overtakes the world.
That’s why Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame worked so well. Admittedly Thanos was an inter-dimensional foil but he had a simple and specific plan, and carried it out remorselessly.
He was a tangible villain with an agenda, like Danny Huston’s Ludendorff in Wonder Woman.
With this in mind, the fact that the focus of Harley’s fury is a mortal bad guy, masked or otherwise, is cause for encouragement.
The trailer doesn’t quite free us from doubt at the DC Universe, but it gives us hope.
To use Harley’s words, turns out I wasn’t the only one in Gotham looking for emancipation.