Here’s the (maybe) good news: Warner Bros. is planning a separate batch of lower-budget, standalone DC movies.
Here’s the (definitely) bad news: The first one of these might be a Joker origin story directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, War Dogs) who will also co-write the script with Scott Silver of 8 Mile and The Fighter fame. Early reports indicating Martin Scorsese was attached to produce appear to have seriously jumped the gun. Jared Leto and his Insane Clown Posse Joker won’t be involved, and the story will apparently take place in the 80s (the go-to period setting these days).
The good here is that with so many cinematic universes suffering early deaths and Deadpool, Logan and Wonder Woman making the case forthe viability of making largely standalone superhero movies WB is rolling with the punches, entertaining the idea of simply trying to efficiently produce quality movies that don’t have to connect to some larger narrative. Of course, they’ll keep making their Justice League-connected movies because, ya know, got to beat Marvel for some reason, but they’ll have a separate group of one-off adventures and oddball narratives.
That, of course, might simply muddy the water even more, especially since Sony has already adopted a two-track model whereby they’ll keep making Spider-Man movies with Marvel while also building up a separate cinematic universe around Venom. Pretty soon, if it doesn’t already, the film universe of comic book movies might be just as challenging to follow as the legendarily complicated continuity of actual comic books. The experience of standing in a comic book store and trying to figure out how all of the books connect (or don’t) and where exactly you can simply find a standalone adventure to enjoy (tip: just pick up Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn; it’s always fun and rarely overtaken by bullshit DC-wide event stories) might now be replicated in movie theater lobbies.
But, frankly, the studios have proved to us that they absolutely suck at trying to be Marvel. They just do. They lack the centralized leadership, streamlined decision-making process and, crucially, patience to truly replicate what Marvel Studios does so well. However, what studios can do is occasionally make a pretty good movie if that’s all they have to worry about. Setting up a line of non-cinematic universe dependent movies plays to that strength.
The Joker, though? Ugh.
Do you know how I got these scars? Oh, you don’t. Well, let me spend two hours telling you how because some people can’t accept the concept of a character’s power being directly tied to their mystery. Todd Phillips and Silver aren’t the first to make that mistake. The comics have occasionally explored a Joker origin story, and Gotham keeps flirting with it. Now they might make a movie out of it. Without Batman. Just like they’re making a Venom movie without Spider-Man. In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi, what the hell is going on out here?
As I previously argued, in the brave new world of franchise-building where you’re constantly playing with pre-made toys when you notice a gap in a familiar story which can be exploited for obvious marketing purposes the true question shouldn’t be “what happened there?” but instead “does anyone care?” Of course, in that case I was wrong because Rogue One’s gap-filling, plot-hole-explaining story proved far more powerful and entertaining than expected. So, maybe I’m wrong again and a Joker origin story will be…nope. I can’t even say it. This whole thing sounds like it fundamentally misunderstands this character.
Hey, it worked with Hannibal. So, there’s that.