Why A Joker Origin Movie Is A Terrible Idea

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Why So Cynical? DC Comics

While Martin Scorsese’s involvement with Warner Bros.’ upcoming Joker standalone film isn’t enough to wholly silence my concerns for a premise this thin, I’m doing my best to remain sanguine until more details emerge. Joaquin Phoenix is in the lead for the headlining role, which probably says more positive things about the film than negative. Phoenix is a fine actor, though it doesn’t really matter all that much, considering this is a prequel film produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Todd Phillips, aka the guy responsible for The Hangover trilogy. This ain’t gonna be a Joker movie, not really. It’s going to be a period piece gangster flick with just enough comic booky schlock to cash in on that sweet name recognition.

The film is set to start shooting in May. From what I understand, the Joker standalone won’t be apart of the main DC Film canon (or what’s left of it anyway) and there are no current plans to launch a separate universe around this one. By all accounts, this Joker movie is a one and done. That’s good news, however provisional. The little bit of information we do have to go on — a “grounded,” “gritty,” “crime drama” — begs the question why not just make that movie, sans The Joker? There will be three live-action Joker performances at once when this movie arrives — Jared Leto’s curious interpretation, Jerome Valeska of CW’s Gotham and now Jocaine Phoenix. Jesus H. Fuck.

This is sort of the opposite of the Venom problem. Sony has made Venom less cool by trying to make him more compelling, while Warner Bros. may make The Joker less compelling as the studio leans into his iconic status too much. DC has really milked his mythology in the books and on screen. The less we both see and know about The Joker, the more that character works. I don’t doubt that Phillips and Scorsese can craft a good gangster romp together, but ultimately The Joker angle is absolutely toxic for the brand. 

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