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Total Film
Total Film
Molly Edwards

The Joker 2 trailer reinvents Harley Quinn, and that has me very excited

Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn in Joker 2.

Ever since Lady Gaga was cast as Harley Quinn in Joker 2, I've been desperate to see her interpretation of the iconic villainess. Harley is one of my favorite comic book characters ever, and Gaga is my favorite music artist – a match made in heaven for me personally. But when I watched the first trailer, as much as I was instantly bowled over by Gaga's take on Harley, something else caught my attention, too: the film looks set to reinvent Harley Quinn, and that has me very excited.

It's clear from the very first glimpse at Gaga's Harley that this is an all new version of the Clown Princess of Crime. For one thing, she's a patient at Arkham, which is a major twist to her traditional origin story. When Harley debuted in Batman: The Animated Series, she was eventually revealed to be Joker's former psychiatrist, who followed him into supervillainy after falling head over heels for him. Putting her on a more equal footing with Joker is a fascinating change that already marks this version of Harley out as something all new. 

Then there's the fact that it looks like Harley will be the corrupting influence this time around, rather than vice versa. A compelling fan theory speculates that Harley is luring Joker back into his old, criminal ways, and what we've glimpsed from the trailer so far certainly seems to back that up. Harley is seen applying Joker's face paint for him, drawing his red smile on the glass separating them during a visit, and even telling him: "I want to see the real you." 

Put on a happy face 

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Now, the Joker himself has always been a figure constantly reinterpreted and reinvented. In the last few years, we've had Jared Leto's take in 2016's Suicide Squad, who memorably sported a silver grill and bold tattoos, and had a far more loving relationship with Harley than we're used to seeing (until Birds of Prey split them up, that is). Then there's of course Joaquin Phoenix's version, named here as Arthur Fleck, who is a failed clown and suffers from a disorder that makes him uncontrollably laugh. Mark Hamill has voiced the character for years across multiple TV shows and video games, in takes that range from silly to truly evil. Cesar Romero's version was lighthearted, Jack Nicholson's was sinister fun, and, of course, there's Heath Ledger's iconic take in The Dark Knight, too, with his infamous scars. 

In comparison, Harley has had a tiny number of live-action appearances. Margot Robbie brought the character to live-action film for the first time in Suicide Squad, and her arc across the following movies saw Harley go from Joker's girlfriend to liberated, independent woman, much as Harley's story does in the comics. Gaga is only the second actor to play the character in a live-action movie, and the fact that her take already seems so different is a very good sign for the character's future. 

"I always wanted Harley to be a character that would get passed on to other actresses to play, the way there are so many iconic male characters. That was always the dream for her," Robbie told Variety recently, while discussing her future in the role. I'm hoping for even more – that each version of Harley that comes after Gaga's can put a new spin on the character, just like her sometimes-erstwhile paramour is reinvented each time he's put to screen. 

Still, though, Gaga's take is recognizably the Harley Quinn we know and love – there's that flair for the theatrical, chaotic, and criminal. It's this kind of reinterpretation, while still faithful to the spirit of the character, that leaves room for other actors to put their own spin on Harley as so many have for Joker. I can't wait to see how this is explored more in Folie à Deux when it arrives later this year. 

I'm hoping Gaga might step into the clown shoes again someday, of course, but if this is her only outing as Harley Quinn, I'm very happy that it's so bold and fresh – and opens the door for more reinvention in the future. Long live the Clown Princess of Crime! 

Joker: Folie à Deux arrives this October 4. In the meantime, check out our guide to all the upcoming major movie release dates for everything else the year has in store. 

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