The casting of Margot Robbie as the DC Movie Universe's Harley Quinn has been met with a fairly marmite like reception: fans either love her or hate her. I remain cautiously optimistic that she'll be able to pull off the role, she is a talented actress, but the thing is the success of the character is not just down to her performance. I'm more concerned about the characters, and the film in general, because its going to hinge more on the writing and direction than on her performance (and the jury's still out on that costume).
Anyway, the Suicide Squad trailer made big waves when it was leaked onto the internet. If somehow you haven't seen it yet, here it is again:
The trailer is actually pretty important, not just as sneak preview of what we can expect to see when Suicide Squad hits cinemas next year, but also cause the whole thing is more or less centred around Harley Quinn.
The Origin of Harley Quinn
Harley's character, despite her fairly short history in the comics, has been retconned and rebooted more times than you can shake a baseball bat at, and it looks like the Suicide Squad might give her yet another origin.
Initially introduced as a side character in Batman: The Animated Series to fill a role that wasn't suitable for the Joker, Harley quickly became popular with the fans through her appearances in other animated media and she was introduced into the DC comic book canon shortly thereafter.
She's currently got her own series (which I highly recommend) as part of the New 52 run in which she breaks away from the Joker to form her own narrative following the events of the Death Of The Family crossover (again, highly recommend, though it is super dark). She also forms part of the Suicide Squad in their New 52 iteration.
The Mad Love origin in the comic book canon is the most widely known of her origins: she meets the Joker when interning at Arkham Asylum, falls in love with him and into insanity, trading in her lab coat for a clown costume and becoming his accomplice.
The DCMU Harley Quinn
In the trailer we see her as the pre-Harley Quinn: Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Blonde hair, glasses, looking terrified, strapped to a table as the Joker stands over her. It's almost certain that his line at the end ("I'm not gonna kill ya, I'm just gonna hurt ya. Really really badly.") is directed at her here, and those electrotherapy tools do not look pleasant.
The events of the trailer keep in line with the violent nature of the relationship between Harley and the Joker that has persisted through her run but is particularly prevalent in the New 52 continuity, which the DCMU is trying to keep more or less in line with. It's suggested here that, rather than Harley falling in love with the Joker when she meets him at Arkham, she's one of his victims in a much more explicit manner than we've seen before.
Tying in with her dark and controversial history, it could be that she develops Stockholm Syndrome or otherwise is driven insane by this encounter. The trailer makes it difficult to place the events in a timeline though, so a lot could have happened between the torture scene and our introduction to the Suicide Squad Harley. The nature of the relationship between the two is something that we're probably not going to discover until the film is released next year, so we'll probably just have to wait and see.
The New 52 Harley Quinn
In the New 52 comics Harley ends up as part of the Suicide Squad after being subdued by Black Canary following the imprisonment of the Joker. She later has a breakdown when the Joker is suspected dead and turns herself into the police as part of a scheme to retrieve his face, which he cut from his own flesh and left behind before leaving Gotham (yeah, I told you it was dark).
The leaked set photo that circulated recently has also prompted speculation that the Ace Chemicals company will be involved somehow, tying in with the most recent canon reboot of her origins in which she's pushed into a vat of Ace Chemical acid by the Joker, resulting in her bleached white skin.
Whichever way the writers choose to play it they'll have to tread carefully as her character has a controversial history involving years of psychological torture inflicted upon her by her "Puddin'". When done right, she's a fun and complex character. When done wrong, she's torture porn.
In her current New 52 solo comic she's more of an anti-hero than an villain, following her own moral compass (though usually through immoral or illegal means) and she's gone back to being a psychiatrist part-time. She's also much more independent and happy go lucky than the tortured Harley of the past and this is the one I'd really like to see being brought to life, though the trailer hints towards darker territory.
As always, we'll have to just wait and see what the feature brings us when it's released next August.