The realm of DC films has seen a wild series of ups and downs over the course of the last decade. From the heights of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy to the polarized response to Zack Snyder's Superman movies and the historic debut of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, DC has taken risks -- some of which have paid off, and some of which have not. However, the most significant risk yet may be upon us, as DC and Warner Bros. are in the process of developing a Joker origin movie under the direction of The Hangover's Todd Phillips.
The idea of an origin movie for DC's most mysterious and enigmatic bad guy may seem bizarre to some fans, but we're here today to talk about why it's actually a good idea. After the lackluster box office performance of Justice League, DC needs a big swing, and there are plenty of good reasons to get to work on this. On that note, let's dive in and talk about how the Joker origin movie could bring unprecedented talent to the world of DC films.
Lack Of Long-Term Commitment Attracts Talent
One of the most intriguing elements of the Joker solo movie is the fact that Joaquin Phoenix appears to be circling the project as the frontrunner to portray Mr. J. The actor has flirted with comic book movies before (particularly Doctor Strange), but he also has not shied away from elements of the genre that he's not interested in pursuing. A guy like Joaquin Phoenix arguably does not want to find himself locked in for a multi-picture deal that could eat up to a full year of his life, which is why such a one-off movie could be exactly what the genre needs to keep attracting talent of that caliber. By committing to single, standalone films that don't tie into larger universes, DC can bring in filmmakers and actors who want to focus on one project at a time, which pretty much guarantees that everyone involved will bring his or her A-game to the proceedings.
It Can Aim For An R-Rating
Make no mistake about it; it's hard to connect PG-13 and R-rated superhero properties. That's one of the main reasons why X-Men films like Deadpool and Logan barely made any effort to do so, and it's also likely why the Marvel Cinematic Universe films barely acknowledged the grittier Defenders series on Netflix. With a precedent set for PG-13 action in the DCEU with films like Wonder Woman and Justice League, the Joker movie already has one hand tied behind its back if it wants to try anything a bit edgier. Instead, by taking the Joker origin movie out of the DCEU, there's no connection to anything that has come before it, which also means that the folks behind the film can push the envelope as far as they want in the creation of their story. Want to show the gruesome tale of how he got those scars? Not a problem.
A Standalone Story Offers More Creative Freedom
In addition to the rating benefits that a standalone movie offers that Joker origin story, there's also the fact that a film unconnected to any other DC project provides Todd Phillips far more creative freedom in the creation of this world. There's no need to match the visual style established by other movies, and no need to adhere to any narrative threads created in previous films. In fact, the Joker origin movie doesn't even need to be set in the same era as the recent Batman movies, and it likely won't be anyway. By solely focusing on telling a tight, three-act story centered on Gotham's most terrifying bad guy, the Joker origin movie can go anywhere and do anything. He can become the Joker in a way that's never been seen before, and he can even die by the time the credits roll. With no narrative precedent, anything is possible.
There's An Appetite For Joker Origin Stories
When the report came in that a standalone Joker origin movie was in the works, a lot of DC fans took to the internet to question why we needed such a thing in the first place. Even I was part of that crowd until I remembered the sheer amount of fan-favorite insanity that Gotham has managed to produce on the small screen by embracing its sense of weirdness with Jerome. Gotham is currently telling a Joker origin story (though he's not ACTUALLY The Joker) unlike anything seen in the comics or in the movies, and it shows that (almost a century after the character debuted in DC Comics) there is still room to maneuver with the clown-themed psycho. We're not saying that the Joker origin movie should adapt the Gotham Jerome storyline, but that particular narrative should remind all of us that there are more ways to tell a Joker story than we may think.
No Continuity = No Risk
There was a lot of excitement about Jared Leto's Joker going into the release of Suicide Squad. The actor was hot off the heels of his recent Oscar win for his work in Dallas Buyers Club, and it seemed like he could stand as a worthy successor to Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight. Alas, that's not how things turned out, as Suicide Squad debuted to widespread panning by critics, with many pointing to the odd choices made by Leto as some of the film's more bizarre moments. This is a problem in an interconnected universe, because a weak Joker inherently puts the Batman movies at a disadvantage if audiences don't respond to him, and weaker Batman movies weaken the DCEU as a whole. By contrast, telling a purely standalone Joker story means that everything stays self-contained, and Warner Bros. can continue to insulate its properties to play to their strengths.
If It Works, DC Can Connect It To The DCEU Later
Last, but not least, we need to round out our discussion of the Joker origin movie by addressing the presence of the multiverse. Many of DC's most beloved stories take place in alternate timelines, which are entirely different universes populated by different (though sometimes very similar) versions of iconic characters. Based on the logic of the multiverse, the Joker from the Joker origin movie could actually enter the proper DCEU movie timeline if audiences respond well enough to him, and the folks at Warner Bros. could use him for future storylines -- perhaps even the recent Rebirth storyline in which Batman learns of three different Jokers from different eras of the DC lore. Then again, if audiences don't respond well to him, then WB can merely go back to the drawing board and leave him in his timeline. No fuss, no muss.