Warner Bros. is amping up its courtship of the Clown Prince of Crime.
In the past few weeks, WB made headlines by conjuring up the possibility of a stand-alone Joker film. This movie would be an origin story and a crime drama set in the 1980s. But most interesting is that it’s to be set outside of the present DCEU. If that isn’t enough to whet fanboys and fangirls appetites, film legend Martin Scorsese is in talks to produce. The film would also see director Todd Phillips taking the directing reigns—Phillips is known for writing and directing all three The Hangover films and his latest film War Dogs.
More recently, an online report came out of The Hollywood Reporter stating that Warner Bros. has its eyes set on Academy Award Winner Leonardo DiCaprio to become their newest version of the Harlequin of Hate. And all the while, WB has plans to film a Joker-Harley Quinn movie and Suicide Squad 2, both with Jared Leto reprising his version of the Joker.
All of this news has been confusing, exciting, and maddening. But, would you expect anything else when enlisting the talents of the Joker?
As the news came down like a cluster bomb over the Internet, the reaction was swift and mixed. But honestly, is there anything wrong with cinema housing two Jokers at the same time? Actors egos aside, isn’t it a sheer delight to be a comic book movie fan these days? A time when there is a real possibility of multiple movies starring, co-starring, or somewhat-starring the greatest comic book villain of all time. If the films and performances are done superbly, isn’t there room for not only multiple actors playing the same role, but multiple storylines?
Just look at the original source material to find the answer.
DC Comics has a successful tradition of fantastic storylines existing outside their main plot points. Here are just a few titles that top the list: The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Batman: Year One, Batman: The Long Halloween, Superman: Red Son, Kingdom Come, and All Star Superman.
These are all terrific stories that not only expand the each comic book’s mythos but create a different physical version of characters like Batman, Superman, and the Joker. The writing of the characters may be consistent with the past or diverge from the standard, but all of the above comics have been illustrated by different artists. These artists gave readers a diverse range of character appearance. Sure, the characters mostly keep to their time honoured physical attributes and costumes, but they are all a different rendition of the original incarnation. Actors playing the Joker are doing the same. Whether it’s Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger or Jared Leto, audiences all know they are watching the Joker, but each version is a different take—and that is a good thing.
Further, should Warner Bros. embark on these stand-alone DC films, they will have taken their first bold step away from the Marvel mould. WB and their DCEU have attempted to be play catch-up to Marvel in the past number of years by following Marvel’s formula: an interconnected superhero film universe. However, with the possibility of stand-alone films, the DCEU has opened itself up to endless possibilities. No longer will they be hamstrung by their own interconnected stories. They will be free to step outside their present DCEU and build a universe of one-off films. More importantly, they’d be the first to do it.
The template appears to be already set for Warner Bros. as well. Wonder Woman was easily the surprise hit—both critically and financially—of the 2017 summer and is a movie that, for the most part, is set outside of the present DCEU. Sure, the film is bookended with Diana in present day Paris, but having the remaining 90+ per cent of the film set during the First World War freed the creators to make the best origin movie possible without worrying too much about continuity. The main concern became staying true to the character—and look how that turned out.
So, as the Internet mulls over the pros and cons of a Joker stand-alone movie, one thing is for certain; with names like Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio bantered about, the superhero film genre has become more and more a home for A-list talent, and Warner Bros. is creating a plethora of story opportunities for this talent to reside.