Suicide Squad went through reshoots that ended up changing the story, including the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker. Here’s how.
Suicide Squad went through many reshoots after Warner decided it needed to change its tone along with some story details, deeply affecting the final product. As a result, many elements had to be cut from the film, completely changing the vision that director David Ayer had for it, and among the biggest changes during reshoots was the relationship between Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the Joker (Jared Leto). Suicide Squad is part of the DC Extended Universe, which began in 2013 with Man of Steel and was followed by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016.
The big screen battle between DC’s biggest heroes wasn’t the success the studio was expecting, and the film was criticized for its story, pacing, and tone, as it turned out to be too somber. The reception of Batman v Superman ended up affecting Suicide Squad, as Warner ordered reshoots in order to make it more lighthearted and comedic after Batman v Superman’s tone wasn’t well received. Because of that, the introduction of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Slipknot, El Diablo, and a new Joker ended up being very different to what the director had planned.
Suicide Squad follows the aforementioned group of villains as they’re recruited by Amanda Waller to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for reduced sentences. Sadly, Suicide Squad wasn’t a hit either, and it was very different to what the trailers showed. Among the elements that were drastically changed during reshoots is the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker, and had it stayed as Ayer originally planned, it would have affected Harley’s future adventures as well as the Joker’s opportunities in the DCEU. Here’s how their relationship changed in reshoots.
Joker’s Role Was Drastically Reduced
One of the audience’s biggest complaints about Suicide Squad was the Joker’s lack of screen time. Given the importance of the character in DC’s universe and Harley’s appearance in the film, the Joker was sold as a main character, and fans were excited to see what Leto was going to bring. The Joker ended up having very little screen time, not allowing the audience to get acquainted with this new version and making him look like just a heavily tattooed mob boss with no clear motivations or role in the story other than “saving” Harley. It was later revealed that many of the Joker’s scenes were left out of the film, affecting the character’s portrayal.
Both Ayer and Leto have been quite vocal about how the final cut of Suicide Squad got rid of most of the Joker’s scenes, which obviously didn’t please Leto at all. Among the important scenes that were cut was one that would have established a subplot involving the Joker and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), where they formed an alliance. Although that would have been one subplot too many, it would have given more clarity to the Joker’s role in the story, and it would have also given viewers a deeper look at his relationship with Harley, as the deal with Enchantress was all about the Joker taking Harley home and being “King of Gotham”, but Harley refused to betray her friends. Ayer has lamented not making the Joker the main villain and has been very clear about how no one has seen Leto’s Joker because he was “ripped out of the movie”. Ayer has also shared that Leto was mistreated during the whole Suicide Squad experience, though it’s unclear if he’s referring to behind-the-scenes issues or how critics have been treating him since the film came out.
Joker Was Originally Way More Abusive To Harley
Cutting most of the Joker’s scenes ended up affecting his on-screen relationship with Harley Quinn, which was nothing like the one in the comics. The Joker and Harley are known for their very toxic relationship, which is in no way one to look up to, but in Suicide Squad all the abuse was toned down, and their “love” ended up being perceived as a tragedy rather than the truly problematic relationship it is. An uncropped still from the helicopter scene showed not only how much that particular scene was cut but also that the Joker was originally very abusive to Harley. The photo has the Joker scolding Harley, wagging his finger close to her sad and worried face, and holding her down with his other hand. This is a clear sign of abuse, not only physical but also emotional, and a very different image to what the scene ended up showing: Harley reuniting with the Joker, sharing a kiss and a hug.
Suicide Squad Originally Had Harley Leave Joker At The End
Given how toxic and abusive her relationship with the Joker was, the original plan was for Harley to leave the Joker at the end of Suicide Squad. Ayer has said that Harley’s arc in the film was “eviscerated”, and that it was “her movie in so many ways”. Among the many things about her story that were left out of the final cut of the film was a love triangle involving Deadshot. Although the two Task Force X members did bond while on their mission, nothing happened between them, but in Ayer’s original script, Harley hooked up with him. Ayer has also mentioned that his original idea had Harley leaving the Joker, and it all points at her possibly leaving him for Deadshot.
Harley’s emancipation, then, would’ve happened way before Birds of Prey, though it’s obviously unknown how well or bad the Harley/Deadshot relationship would have turned out – but it definitely wouldn’t have been as harmful as the one she had with the Joker. This, of course, would have changed all post-Suicide Squad plans for Harley. Her second big screen appearance was in Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey, which followed Harley’s life post-break up, from the grieving process (which only highlights how toxic her relationship with the Clown Prince of Crime truly was) to finding herself again and teaming up with the Birds.
Leaving the Deadshot/Harley relationship out of Suicide Squad turned out well for Harley as she was given a proper story and development in Birds of Prey, though the same can’t be said for the Joker. Leto’s time in the DCEU is most likely over by now, as Warner is moving forward with projects that don’t include him and has been doing its best to separate itself from him. The changes to the relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn that the Suicide Squad reshoots brought benefited one and affected the other, and it’s yet to be seen if Ayer’s cut will ever be released.
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