One of the small but interesting ways Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey was able to dig into Harley Quinn’s interiority was by letting her insanity contour the film’s reality in key moments—like when a violent interrogation by Black Mask suddenly became a twisted musical number entirely in her mind. While James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad doesn’t directly acknowledge the character’s involvement in the first Suicide Squad or Birds of Prey, the film is set to feature a sequence that seemingly draws on elements of her past appearances in an interesting way.
When io9 got a chance to speak with production designer Beth Mickle during a visit to The Suicide Squad’s set in the fall of 2019, she took some time to explain the ideas at play in one of Harley’s breakout moments that’s been heavily featured in the movie’s advertisements. At some point, Harley finds herself surrounded and having to shoot her way out of a building full of heavily armed people by herself. Though the situation is dire, and pushes Harley to whip out her near-inhuman acrobatics skills while her own guns are blazing, Mickle explained how the sequence is also a thrill ride for her that visually manifests as what she called “Harley Vision.”
“[The] idea is that there is a ‘Harley Vision,’ like how she sees the world and how she sees things, and it’s [with things like] animated flowers and tweety birds,” Mickle detailed. “She’s very happy, so we explored some concept art to see what that that could look like, and how we would render it in the film.” The animated birds that Mickle described—almost two years back—can now be seen in a couple of shots from earlier The Suicide Squad trailers where Harley also struts away from an explosion of vibrant flowers that seem out of place for a gruesome shootout.
Mickle also was careful to note that The Suicide Squad’s use of Harley Vision is sparing. But the animated birds won’t be the only way that the movie brings its incarnation of Harley somewhat closer to her comic book, animated, and video game counterparts in terms of whimsy. Gunn’s previously spoken about how one of Harley’s new looks in The Suicide Squad is based directly on her appearance in Rocksteady’s Arkham games, and Harley adds a bazooka to the arsenal of weapons she uses to dispatch her targets.
These details may not have much bearing on The Suicide Squad’s plot, but they, along with the inclusion of characters like Polka-Dot Man, Starro, and King Shark, all feel like purposeful and solid ways of reorienting the franchise. Drastically different in tone as Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is going to be from its predecessor, it feels like it’s going to be on-brand, narratively, for this specific group.
The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max on August 6.
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