Look, don’t get me wrong: I love the Joker. But the news that there will probably now be two totally different movies starring the Joker in the nearish future—one featuring Jared Leto from the “Suicide Squadverse” and one directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix—is not encouraging.
Even if the Phoenix Joker movie is sort lower-budget and contextualized marketing-wise as a “Dark DC” multiverse type of thing…here are my reasons why this is all a bad idea:
I. Jared Leto’s Joker Is Not *THAT* Popular
I’m actually one of the few people in my social circle (such as it is) who actually likes the iconography of Jared Leto’s Joker. I find it rather…jolly. But I am distinctly in the minority regarding this opinion.
Now, you could say that Leto’s Joker plays to a much younger and hipper demographic (you know, ignoring the fact that Leto is pushing 50). But let’s get real people: the true breakout star of Suicide Squad was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. But what happened to that proposed “Joker and Harley” movie? Is that still going to happen?
I have to point to this recent “Blind Item Revealed” from Crazy Days And Nights indicating that Robbie doesn’t want to star in any more movies with Leto.
And so we come to the part of the story where Leto is…problematic. I say this as a person who has been a huge Leto fan. I’ll leave it there. (flash to me months or even weeks in the future where I say publicly, “I was NEVER a fan of Jared Leto!”)
II. The Egos Of The Actors
Reportedly, Leto was not 100% smiles and sunshine when he first heard about the possibility of another Joker standalone movie starring not him.
Having two “competing” Joker movies with two actors as idiosyncratic as Leto and Phoenix seems to be asking for trouble. How can these two actors—who are pretty much contemporaries who have been Oscar nominated/winners (Leto got his, Phoenix lost 3 times)—not have a rivalry over this?
I mean, just in terms of which film gets more marketing $. Or who gets interviewed where. Or who gets a bigger poster at ComicCon. It just seems to me to be more potential problems than it may be worth.
III. Confusing Branding
If DC had two wide-release Superman movies—starring completely different actors with completely different approaches—well that would never actually happen. Because it’s branding suicide. Movie and TV studios avoid producing widely different versions of the same character at the same time for exactly this reason.
You saw the controversy where they had a different Superman in the Supergirl TV series than from the movies. Because now you have a more likable Superman in the TV version than the movie version, and it makes the movie studio look bad.
It’s not a “wealth of riches” here. It’s diluting the brand. It splits up the mass-market who might have watched one version (if for no other reason that they didn’t have a choice of any alternate versions) into smaller segments that can feel free to “reject” the other movie (and reject all the ancillary tie-in products, etc.
And it’s also…
IV. Overexposure Of The Character
Yes, the Joker is a very popular character. But I don’t think it is a character that can weather severe over-exposure. Even with the Geoff Johns “3 Jokers” series coming out.
Heath Ledger’s Joker was fantastic, and it really revitalized the character. But then it got over-exposed. The Joker was supposed to be a “treat”—something you bring in for that extra “punch.” Then he was EVERYWHERE. Comics, products, Funko figs, freakin’ EVERYWHERE.
That’s why the way they handled Joker in the first Suicide Squad movie worked for me—him as a supporting character. And then you’d slowly introduce him to the wider DC Cinematic Universe and have him eventually face off against Ben Affleck’s Batman (which, of course, looks like it will never actually happen anymore).
Which brings me to, finally,
V. Let the Affleckverse/Snyderverse DIE Already!
Look, I’m s big fan of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen—it’s like one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. But the WB botched his foray into the DC Universe because they wanted their cake and eat it too: they wanted the darkness/edginess of Snyder hybridized with this mass-market tentpole “Happy Meal Friendly” crap.
The Snyder DCU movies have been plagued with problems from Day One. I don’t place all the blame at his feet, but I’m just stating facts. And the way they handled Justice League was a freakin’ disaster of epic (you could say, Solo-like) proportions. Had they just left it with Snyder instead of panicking and giving it to Joss Whedon, at least you would have had a more cohesive movie.
Now, it was never 100% clear (at least to me) if Suicide Squad was totally in that Snyderverse. But Leto’s Joker, like it or not, is sort of associated with it. More than that…it’s just associated with an entire “era” of DC movies (and internal studio management) that have a very spotty history.
Maybe Leto’s Joker can be salvaged as Wonder Woman is, as Aquaman might be.
Or maybe there will be a huge news story about Leto and they’ll have to bury this half-made film out in the California desert next to the Spacey footage from All The Money In The World.
VI. Two Joker Films Make It Look Like The Studio Is Confused And In Disarray
I know that #5 was going to be my final point, but I’ll just add this one: obviously, Warner Bros and the DC Cinematic Universe (such as it is) is going through some transitions. There is the AT&T merger, the staff departures, and, well, Justice League just about spooked everyone.
Green-lighting two different Joker movies makes it look like the WB doesn’t have all their ducks in a row yet. It looks…messy.
It looks like they’re going to throw a lot of stuff against the wall/screen to see what sticks.
This all being said, I would watch both Joker movies. I’m just saying: maybe not the best idea in the world to make them. I guess Leto has a contract to use up.