Illustration of the Joker from the 2019 film featuring Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix's masterful role leads to hope of more successful DC comic films. (Illustration by Adam Cowden, Kendal College of Art and Design)

Todd Philips’s ‘Joker’ Could Be the Start of a New Movie Trend

The clown prince of crime’s cinematic success could pave the way for similar movies.

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Illustration of the Joker from the 2019 film featuring Joaquin Phoenix

The clown prince of crime’s cinematic success could pave the way for similar movies.

For Warner Bros., the past few years have not been too kind to them in regard to their DC comic book movies. First there was the negative critical reception to the then highly anticipated film “Batman v Superman.” Then, later that year, there was even more negative critical reception with their film “Suicide Squad,” featuring Jared Leto as Joker. Despite all of the justified negative reception to these terrible movies, they still made a lot of money; the same can’t be said for the “Justice League” movie released a year after.

Thankfully, Warner Bros. has been able to get themselves together and release some great DC comics movies since then, with the most recent one being “Joker.” The film may be the biggest R-rated movie of all time with $600 million made worldwide. The movie is exactly what it sounds like: a movie with Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, as the main character. I always pictured a movie like this being made based on the Joker graphic novel; however, having seen the film, I think that it is pretty good even if it isn’t based on any comic book story.

Joaquin Phoenix does a fantastic job as Arthur Fleck, the man who eventually becomes Joker. His performance is enhanced by his maniacal laughter along with his commitment to weight loss in preparation for the film. For this role, Phoenix lost 52 pounds and may have gotten a disorder as a result. If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is. Jared Leto’s preparation for the role of Joker in “Suicide Squad” makes Phoenix’s preparation look harmless.

While the movie is pretty good to me, I don’t think that it is really worthy of being hailed as some all-time great. It is very slow early on and outside of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, there really isn’t anything too noteworthy or exciting about the movie. Also, films that inspired the movie or are similar, such as “Taxi Driver,” “Falling Down” and “American Psycho,” are way better. There has been no official talk about a sequel as director Todd Phillips shot down rumors stemming from a misquoted interview when he told IGN, “The quote was, ‘I will do anything Joaquin wants to do.’ And I would. But the movie’s not set up to [have] a sequel. We always pitched it as one movie, and that’s it.”

Joaquin Phoenix does seem to want to return to the role as he told IndieWire in an interview, “You know, I wouldn’t have thought about this as my dream role. But now, honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it,” Phoenix said. “I talked to Todd a lot about what else we might be able to do, in general, just to work together, but also specifically, if there’s something else we can do with Joker that might be interesting. So, it ended up being a dream role. It’s nothing that I really wanted to do prior to working on this movie.”

The concept of this film is very interesting and it would be a shame if a sequel never came to fruition. But even if a sequel is not made, I think Warner Bros. could start a new trend not just for DC comics movies but for comic book movies in general: character studies about super villains.

“Joker” is a character study that follows the daily routine of Arthur Fleck and just what exactly makes him become the Joker. It is rare for a comic book movie not to feature a superhero. Comic book movies are usually referred to as superhero movies due to the fact they tend to feature a hero as the main character taking on a villain. There are plenty of movies out there that are based on comic books but are not about superheroes such as “Kingsman,” “Dredd,” “Hellboy” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

Clearly there is a market for these types of films. I think that DC should use the momentum and success of “Joker” to take a look at what other comic book villains they own the movie rights to could that carry their own movie. They have already gotten the ball rolling on this kind of idea with a horror movie spinoff of 2018’s “Aquaman.” I like this idea a lot but I think that it could be taken a lot further.

I would like to see a super villain character study horror film that focuses on the villain Scarecrow. Everything about Scarecrow screams horror movie: He’s a villain that uses a toxin called fear gas to induce hallucinations. Just like Phoenix’s Joker, he also had a terrible upbringing, has a strange, skinny-looking body and is also insane. With the correct actor and director, a movie like this could rival what Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips were able to do with “Joker.”

The one movie I would absolutely love to see is one that focuses on Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor. Luthor is perfect for a character study film. His seemingly bad intentions could be further explored, and viewers could end up learning just why he is the way he is. A movie like this is just begging to be made. As a matter of fact, a comic book insider named Mikey Sutton has confirmed a Lex Luthor movie may be on the way.

On his invite-only Facebook page, Sutton said, “Warner Bros. is considering a Lex Luthor film. No Man of Steel; he’s pure fiction in this alternate universe. To WB, this has the potential of being a modern-day Citizen Kane. You see Luthor grow up from being an awkward intellectual kid to corrupt wealthy businessman to president of the United States. Slap on an R rating and leave the comic books behind but perhaps put a twist on the myth such as making Lois Lane his First Lady, but also the reporter who brings him down.”

Keep in mind that this could just turn out to be a rumor but if it does happen, then Warner Bros. will be revolutionizing comic book movies the same way Marvel Studios did with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They have been able to move away from making bad movies that make a lot of money and move toward making good movies that make a whole lot of money. If they can continue their momentum, then moviegoers are going to be treated to some great films in the near future.

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