After the critical disaster that was Suicide Squad hit theaters in 2016, many fans were shocked and annoyed that Batman’s archenemy, the Joker, barely appears in the movie at all despite the character being featured heavily in the film’s promotional campaign. Even Jared Leto, who played the classic supervillain, voiced his own frustration at the decision to cut a lot of the Joker’s scenes. In what appears to be a direct response to that (or just another way to milk the DC Extended Universe machine), Warner Bros. announced in August 2017 that multiple films about the iconic character are on the way, including an origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix. Unfortunately, not everyone in the Batman fandom was on board with the idea.
Do we get a Batwoman movie, a Birds of Prey movie? No. We get a fucking Joker movie from Todd Phillips. pic.twitter.com/4hiVmjYCMa
— Scott Stamper (@DerfelBarada) August 22, 2017
fans: we want an under the red hood movie! teen titans movie! man of steel sequel! more female-led movies!
dceu: here’s a joker solo movie! pic.twitter.com/RqnoFLZVWE
— nat (@jason_todds) August 22, 2017
There’s plenty of arguments for how a Joker movie could work, but in the end it humanizes him and that’s not a Joker I want tbh.
— 🍳 Eggs & Blakon 🥓 (@extrablakon) August 23, 2017
There were a few big reasons for the pushback. In the right hands, a Joker origin story could be great, but the studio’s choice to tap Todd Phillips to cowrite and potentially direct hasn’t been sitting well with fans, since Phillips’s previous directing credits include mostly raunchy comedies like The Hangover, Due Date, and Old School. Lending some gravity to the project is Scott Silver (8 Mile, The Fighter), who is attached to cowrite the script with Phillips, which finds the Joker in Gotham City in the early 1980s prior to his life as a criminal mastermind.
The as-yet-untitled movie’s reception will also depend heavily on the actor who takes up the villain’s iconic mantle. Since Martin Scorsese is reportedly producing, rumors started to swirl that the studio was eyeing longtime Scorsese collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio for the role. Those plans have since fallen through, and Joaquin Phoenix has been tapped to play the Crown Prince of Crime instead. The casting is enough to send the message that Warner Bros. is trying to put the Joker film on the same prestigious level of Christopher Nolan’s award-worthy Dark Knight franchise.
Because Warner Bros. has decided to expand its DC films outside its current cinematic universe, Phoenix’s casting won’t technically conflict with Leto’s Joker, whom he played in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Leto will also reprise his role in the upcoming Suicide Squad 2, as well as his recently announced stand-alone film.
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