In the comics, the Joker’s origin has been addressed a few times, none with what amounts to any terrible certainty that fans generally agree is succinct. In the first film directed by Tim Burton, we get an origin that makes the Joker the one responsible for the deaths of Bruce Wayne’s parents while he was just a young thug and not yet the maniacal clown we all know and love to hate. In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, we never get a full origin of the villain but we get some brilliantly ever-changing hints about his scars in a mostly adored performance by Heath Ledger. In the Suicide Squad film, the Joker appears to be a wild tattooed club kid with a penchant for teeth augmentation that left many fans severely disappointed, but no origin is given or even hinted at. In the TV show Gotham, we may be getting an entirely different Joker story… the verdict is still out, but rumors abound. Suffice it to say, there is no one agreed upon origin that the books or the films seem to agree on… and for the most part, fans are completely satisfied with the mystery and some, like myself, would like it to remain a mystery. It is that much more compelling that way. But now DC/Warner Brothers apparently wants to throw another origin in the mix with a standalone Joker origin film, according to an exclusive story from Deadline.
Not content to let the mystery be, DC/Warner Brothers have apparently tapped The Hangover director Todd Phillips and Scott Silver (writer of 8 Mile) to take on the origin produced by none other than legendary director Martin Scorcese. While Martin Scorcese certainly lends some gravitas to the project, one still can’t help but wonder what DC/WB is up to, as the idea of a coherent and linked DCEU seems to be further and further away as more and more announcements come. According to the Deadline article, DC will be launching a new film banner that will allow random exploration of DC titles, unconnected to each other. Certainly this is not a problem in and of itself, but it does prove disappointing to anyone hoping for the kind of unity the Marvel films have in any kind of DC film universe. It is almost as if they have given up on the idea before Justice League even has a chance to fly or flop, which is a shame after the relatively positive reaction Wonder Woman received.
And now that we know that the Joker/Harley film featuring Margot Robbie reprising her role from Suicide Squad alongside Jared Leto is a go, we are about to get more Joker on film than we had ever expected… but completely unconnected from this Scorcese produced origin. Is it safe to assume it’s still connected to Suicide Squad at least? It certainly seems that Warner Brothers is all over the place with these properties, and I’m not exactly sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, I’d love to see a well-produced cinematic universe in the vein of what Marvel has done, where we can settle in with some great actors playing great characters over a span of several really good films. With the relative mess that Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was, and the massive tone switch that appears to have happened based on early images and clips of Justice League compared to what we’ve seen more recently, DC/WB appeared to be trying to right the ship, particularly in the wake of wide approval and praise for Wonder Woman. This latest news seems to suggest that WB has jumped off of the ship and is simply going to go back to distributing a bunch of disparate ships floating adrift and in no particular direction for some time… meanwhile Marvel (sans Mutants, of course) continues to steer their ships into a sleek and finely organized armada that will continue to dominate for the forseeable future. Maybe it’s best. Many argued it was wrong for DC/WB to try to “catch up” to Marvel by smashing so much into so few films. But at least for my part, I’d hoped they’d follow Marvel’s lead but slow down and introduce these characters well and really let the actors own the parts… instead they seem to have just abandoned the idea altogether and would rather approach each idea independently as Sony and Fox have done with their Marvel properties.
The good news, at least from my perspective, is that this origin-based Joker will NOT be the Jared Leto one and will be a completely new actor, and likely be set in the 80’s. This sounds quite interesting, but how will we feel if they create a great Joker in this film, but are unwilling to then connect him to a great Batman in a connected series of films? Is the Joker enough of a draw alone without his devil’s dance with the Batman? Should Joker’s origin which is currently divided be left a mystery to preserve the insanity? And since this seems to be going forward whether we like it or not… who do you see playing the younger Joker? Should DC/WB abandon the idea of a connected cinematic universe and just go one-to-one with good stories? Or should they back up, re-evaluate and come up with a long-term plan similar to Marvel’s phased approach to their MCU? Sound off in the comments!