There had been rumors for a while. Speculation was everywhere. And now, Warner Bros. has officially announced an upcoming stand-alone Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix and co-written and directed by Todd Phillips. According to the press release, the Joaquin Phoenix film will be “an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen”. Further, it will be an “exploration of a man disregarded by society” and “not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale”.
Don’t confuse yourself, though. This film is not in the DCEU. In fact, it has nothing to do with Jared Leto’s Joker. That version of the Joker will be getting his own separate movie as well, so don’t worry. There are also rumors about a Harley Quinn movie. So, in the next few years, we will see no fewer than two completely different incarnations of the Clown Prince of Crime in a handful of different movies. Please take a moment to let all of that set in.
Feelings About Joker Origin Movie
To tell the truth, I would be hard pressed to think of a more random team of people for this project. Let’s start with the director and co-writer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Todd Phillips. The man does wonderful work. I’ve enjoyed pretty much every one of his films. That being said, he is probably the last director who comes to mind when I hear the words “gritty” and “character study”. His grittiest film to date is probably War Dogs.
Joaquin Phoenix is also a surprising choice in my opinion, but not necessarily a bad one. He’s certainly talented as well as eccentric. He has played weird, creepy, and tragic roles before. Honestly, he could end up being a great Joker. We’ve seen the different incarnations of the Joker through the years. We’ve seen actors play him as a psychopath, an anarchist, and a gangster. I hope, personally, they go a different route– the tragic character. Maybe this will be the movie that finally causes the audience to feel something like sympathy for the Joker.
All that being said, I don’t want any of this. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who wants this particular film. No one is clamoring for a Joker origin story (in fact, many fans prefer it when he has no real origin story). I don’t think there are any huge Joaquin Phoenix fans out there who are dying to see him in this role. And I still don’t know how Todd Phillips became the choice to write and direct. I normally try my best to be optimistic, or at least reserve judgment, especially when the movie hasn’t even entered production yet. To be honest, though, I don’t understand this and I don’t want this.
Why, Warner Bros.? Why?
The best explanation I can think of is Warner Bros. is simply hedging their bets. They had probably assumed that Suicide Squad would be successful, largely in thanks to the Joker. Yet reception to that movie– and to Jared Leto’s interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime– was lukewarm at best. Maybe they hope Joaquin Phoenix will fare better. It seems like Warner Bros. is throwing whatever it can at the wall and seeing which Joker sticks. The studio and their focus groups seem convinced that the public loves the Joker. And we do. The problem, however, is rather simple.
The truth is Heath Ledger pretty much defined the role. He won a posthumous Oscar for it. And The Dark Knight will most likely be the gold standard for Batman (and for superhero movies in general) for a long time, thanks in no small part to the Joker. I applaud Leto for, at least, attempting something different with his version. Nobody wants to see any actor attempting to imitate another. The fact remains though– anyone who plays the Joker in the future will be compared to Heath Ledger, for better or worse.
It has been a decade since the release of The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger still casts a long shadow. I could be wrong, though. Perhaps Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation will be definitive. Maybe Jared Leto’s second attempt will blow our collective minds. I have my doubts, though. Anyone who takes on the role has an almost impossible task in front of them. They’d have to redefine a role that was already perfected just a decade prior. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. That won’t stop the studio from trying, though. Those kids love that Joker, you know!
What do you geeks think about all the Joker movies? Let us know in the comments!