The WB stunned die-hard fans and casual superhero movie-watchers alike when it recently announced a Joker standalone film that approximately no one in this universe or the next one really asked for.
As a person who watched Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman in theaters four times each, Wonder Woman six times (we don’t talk about the mess that was Suicide Squad in this household), and who nearly lost her damn mind when the new Justice League trailer came out, I just have one thing to say about this Joker news:
Wtf is going on?
Out of all the news I was wanting or even expecting to hear from WB regarding more DC-related properties, a Joker standalone film was absolutely nowhere on the list.
And while I want to believe in WB and what their vision is for its DC features in general and this film specifically, here are three reasons why I’m decidedly unconvinced that there’s need in this world for a Joker standalone film.
Joker works best as a villain if he doesn’t have a clearly defined origin
The Joker is one of the most enduring and iconic villains in the entire comics universe.
He’s pure chaos personified, a sadistic and utterly unpredictable malevolent force who has a history of being three steps ahead of the world’s greatest detective.
In fact, a large part of what makes Joker so terrifying is just that — the fact that he often seems to be more of a force than a man. As opposed to Batman, whose life and purpose we know down to the very details, we don’t know anything about the Joker’s motivations, history, plans for the future.
In 75 years of comics history, we don’t even know his real name.
All we know for sure is that there was a terrible accident at the ACE Chemicals factory, which gave the Joker his trademark appearance. But beyond that, there’s never been a real backstory attached to him.
Or perhaps more accurately, we’ve never had one backstory so much as we’ve had multiple backstories — a facet to his character that was referenced in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which had Heath Ledger’s Joker tell multiple variations on the story of how he got his facial scarring.
Joker’s cruel brand of anarchy not only make him the perfect match for Batman’s meticulous planning and controlled rage — they likewise add to the mystique and horror surrounding his character.
We are never really able to empathize with and understand the Joker because we never know anything about him — so we can only ever be frightened of him.
An origin story would do away with a lot of that mystique, and honestly the last thing any of us need is a movie that’s going to try to humanize someone as utterly inhumane as the Joker.
A Joker without a true origin story has worked out perfectly for DC comics for 75 years and counting — I think it’s fair to ask the newly minted film universe to do the same.
A Joker film that’s unconnected to the shared DCEU will be confusing to general audiences
As if the idea of a Joker standalone film isn’t perplexing enough, the new movie will feature an entirely different Joker than the current Jared Leto version that’s featured in the DCEU’s Suicide Squad.
This makes sense because this Joker film won’t actually fall in with the current DCEU continuity — it will instead exist outside of the DCEU continuity as its own, separate movie with its own separate timeline.
Except that this sort of divergent continuity only really makes sense to those accustomed to reading DC comics, where parallel earths and multiverses are a well-known and accepted part of the world building.
However, most of the movie-going community are general audience members who have grown used to shared universes where everything is interconnected.
No matter how much WB insists that this Joker and the DCEU’s version are two separate entities, general audiences — the ones who don’t spend all their time reading through twitter and media thinkpieces, who decide to watch a movie because of the advertising or rotten tomatoes score, who are used to having everything take place within the same universe — are likely to be confused and/or aggravated.
WB should focus on building up the DCEU brand before branching out
Unlike the wildly successful MCU, which will be releasing its seventeenth film with the upcoming Thor: Ragnorak, the DCEU is still very much in its nascent stages. And while it’s actually been more profitable than its perceived in the public — and as much as it pains me to say it — the DCEU/WB do have quite a PR problem when it comes to its shared universe.
Articles and thinkpieces about the failure of the DCEU abound and the rollout of its shared universe has been seen as messy, confusing and disorganized.
With only four films under its belt and only two currently in production, and with rumors flying daily over the internet regarding the upcoming slate, who’s in and who’s out, and what’s actually getting made, the WB needs be devoting a vast amount — if not all — its time, energy and talent towards building its current shared universe brand.
Announcing a standalone Joker film — seemingly out of the blue — that’s completely unconnected to the DCEU continuity doesn’t do much to quell the idea that WB doesn’t really know what it’s doing; if anything, it looks as though WB is losing faith in its primary brand and is essentially trying to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks.
However, I do think there’s a silver lining to most bad news — and of course as a DCEU stan, I’d find it when it comes to this head-scratching reveal.
Silver lining: This Joker movie may lead to a DC Elseworlds branch of films
Let’s say I eat all my words right now and this Joker film doesn’t confuse audiences, doesn’t demystify the Joker brand and actually helps to solidify the DCEU timeline.
This best case scenario is that this Joker standalone film is less a panicked move on WB’s part and actually the first entry into a DC Elseworlds universe of films.
DC Elseworlds is the title given to standalone DC storylines that use the big DC characters — Batman, Superman, the Justice League — but are completely unconnected to and unencumbered by the current and accepted DC canon.
These stories feature our favorite heroes, but repackage them in new and interesting ways; it basically lets authors ask “what if” and gives them the freedom to play each scenario out. Some of my favorites include:
- What if Superman had crashlanded in the Soviet Union rather than in Kansas? (Mark Millar’s Red Son)
- What if Bruce Wayne had been alive at the same time and place as Jack the Ripper? (Brian Augustyn’s Gotham by Gaslight)
- What happens when the generation of heroes we know retire, but the new generation are just as bad as the villains they swear to save the world from? (Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come)
Obviously within the shared universe of the DCEU, these would all be impossible to create.
But if the WB launched a DC Elseworlds film imprint, we could see a Superman on the big screen that flies under the banner of Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact, or a Batman who fights Jack the Ripper.
These are great, creative stories that would undoubtedly attract talented artists and directors to them, and I’d absolutely love to see them on screen.
So, while I’m still incredibly wary of a Joker standalone film, I’ll also try and cling to my one silver lining that it won’t leave audiences flabbergasted or completely mess up the DCEU and will actually lead to the creation of unique brand of DC Elseworlds films.