The Joker + Martin Scorsese (as a producer) sounds like a good idea, right? Maybe not.
Deadline reported that Warner Bros. is working on a Joker origin movie. The film will be directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover series), written by Scott Silver (8 Mile) and produced by Scorsese. My immediate gut reaction is this is a bad idea on multiple levels.
Despite the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, there was a decent amount of rumblings complaining about yet another Spider-Man reboot. With a $314.5 million gross, Homecoming beat out both Andrew Garfield led Spider-Man films, but failed to unseat any of the Tobey Maguire versions. Including the widely derided Spider-Man 3.
Movie fans have largely been accepting that Batman is more of a James Bond style character. He’s open to multiple interpretations. I’d even argue that unlike Bond, Batman doesn’t have that agreed upon definitive portrayal like Sean Connery. Some like Christian Bale while others dig Michael Keaton. I’m more of a Ben Affleck guy myself. The point is with so many actors playing Batman, audiences are OK with various takes with The Dark Knight.
The Joker is a different story. There’s definitively two iconic Joker performances — Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson. Anyone else is largely being set up for failure. Jared Leto did his best to make a new twist on Joker in Suicide Squad, but his take was largely crapped on by fans. This movie version will reportedly feature a new actor and be more of a classic Scorsese gangster film. That’s not entirely encouraging.
Nor is the news this will be part of the DC movie brand completely separate from the still forming current DC movie continuity. This is a way for random filmmakers to come in, make a movie with a DC character with little regard to what’s already in place and twist the story however they need for their movie. That’s only going to be extremely confusing for moviegoers who don’t know these are slated as standalone films.
Maybe the biggest problem is Warner Bros. seemingly ignoring the lesson of Wonder Woman, its all-time biggest hit after The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Audiences like heroes. Anti-heroes and villains make for good foils, but ultimately we want to be able to root for someone. Cheering on the rise of a homicidal maniac? Doesn’t seem all that entertaining. Or at least the opportunities for a fun and inspirational story seem limited.
For audiences who don’t live and breathe comic books, it’d be easy to think DC only has six or seven worthwhile characters. That’s generously including Aquaman. Joker is on that short list of over used characters. By comparison, Marvel is so deep in its roster Groot and Rocket Raccoon are household names. That reluctance to move beyond the safety net of a few core characters will continue to hurt Warner Bros’ ability to expand its DC Universe slate.