Is ‘Birds of Prey’ a Sequel to ‘Suicide Squad’? How the Two DC Movies Are Connected

Birds of Prey is soaring into theaters.

The latest round of DC Comics films has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for fans. After Man of Steel proved to be a success, director Zack Snyder led Warner Bros. down the shared universe route perhaps too quickly. The director brought audiences Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 and followed that divisive film with the disastrous Justice League just a year later.

Along the way, DC has enjoyed hits such as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Shazam! But though these movies share continuity with the Snyder films, their stories are almost completely disconnected from anything Batman or Superman. So we can’t blame Warner Bros. for loosening the reins on the canonical nature of its “DC Extended Universe,” an unofficial term that now barely applies.

Unlike the Marvel approach, DC proved with Joker how audiences might actually prefer standalone projects. Naturally then, Birds of Prey might have some moviegoers confused exactly what they’re in for. Margot Robbie reprises her role from 2016’s Suicide Squad as fan-favorite villain/anti-hero Harley Quinn. But is director Cathy Yan’s movie a sequel to Suicide Squad?

Margot Robbie at the world premiere of 'Birds of Prey'
Margot Robbie at the world premiere of ‘Birds of Prey’ | Karwai Tang/WireImage

‘Suicide Squad’ introduced Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn

Few comic book characters have evolved as quickly as Harley Quinn. Introduced in Batman: The Animated Series in the early 1990s, she started out as the Joker’s lead henchwoman/girlfriend. But it wasn’t long before Harley Quinn’s popularity exploded far beyond that.

Over the years, she has teamed with fellow Batman villains Catwoman and Poison Ivy, joined the villain team known as the Suicide Squad, and even left her life of crime behind. Since the 2011 DC Comics relaunch — known as The New 52 — Harley Quinn has evolved into an anti-hero and become even more popular among fans.

Director David Ayer’s Suicide Squad brought the character to life on the big screen for the first time. Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) proved to be a true standout, even to those who didn’t love Suicide Squad. Now Robbie’s back in a more prominent role in Birds of Prey, also serving as a producer.

How ‘Birds of Prey’ continues the character’s story

In Suicide Squad, Harley joins a team of villains that also includes Deadshot (Will Smith), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). But none of her former teammates pop up in Birds of Prey. The film does, however, follow up on one aspect of Harley’s story.

Last audiences saw Harley, she was still caught in the middle of her on-again/off-again toxic love affair with the Joker (Jared Leto). But Birds of Prey shakes her free from that bad romance. Leto doesn’t appear, though Yan does use some Suicide Squad footage to flash back to Harley’s origin.

As its subtitle implies, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) really hinges on Harley defining herself as an individual. Much like she did in the comics, the character is on a mission to break free from her Joker-centric past.

In Birds of Prey, she makes some new friends and sets out on an adventure of her own. After Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. was anxious to get Harley back on-screen, and Robbie insisted on an ensemble approach.

Fans will still get a ‘Suicide Squad’ sequel in 2021

So Birds of Prey is more of a loose spinoff than a sequel to Suicide Squad. But fans of the latter film shouldn’t be disappointed. After all, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn is still writing and directing a proper Suicide Squad follow-up for Warner Bros.

The Suicide Squad is slated to hit theaters on August 6, 2021. Robbie will once again play Harley Quinn amid another ensemble cast. Gunn has mostly brought in stars such as Idris Elba, John Cena, and Pete Davidson for new roles. But Courtney — whose character is acknowledged in Birds of Prey — Viola Davis, and Joel Kinnaman reprise their roles from Suicide Squad.

The recent run of DC films might not have worked as intended. But Warner Bros. has landed on some brilliant performances so far. Robbie’s Harley Quinn appears to be one of the most successful. So it’s no surprise the studio is banking on the actress’ talent and the character’s unhinged appeal to keep the franchise on track.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) opens on Feb. 7, 2020.