While Wonder Woman appears to have given Warner Bros. and DC a chance to right the ship, most of their modern cinematic universe decisions have been ill-advised. While Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad made a lot of money, they were critically lambasted and left bad tastes in many audience members’ mouths. Continuing down their current course of dark, humorless storytelling and whatever it was they were doing in Suicide Squad will catch up with them sooner rather than later.
So, it appears that Warner Bros. is changing tack and hoping to give an aspect of the DC universe a bit of a classy reboot.
News broke last week that the studio wanted to create a standalone origin movie about The Joker. The idea is a dubious one, considering the news that a new actor would be chosen to play the titular role instead of Jared Leto, who infamously played him Suicide Squad. The strategy seems like overkill, but the inclusion of Martin Scorsese as a producer was meant to provide the concept with a touch of legitimacy.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, there’s also another reason the studio wanted the venerated filmmaker attached to the project: they want Leonardo DiCaprio to take on the tall task of being the Clown Price of Crime.
Sources say Warners will make an ambitious attempt to use Scorsese to bring Leonardo DiCaprio into the world of comic-book movies. Certainly, Scorsese’s involvement in The Joker film, which The Hangover filmmaker Todd Phillips would direct, could elevate and diversify the studio’s contributions to the genre, creating the potential to make awards-worthy films such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.
The idea, according to a source, is to position DiCaprio or another A-lister as The Joker “in a Scorsese-esque Gotham underworld.” In other words, they want to try to make another Dark Knight Trilogy happen…but with Todd Phillips (Old School, The Hangover).
The article notes that not only has no offer been made to DiCaprio but Scorcese’s role with the film has yet to be finalized. So all of this might be for naught. Still, as the article notes, the point might be to signal to other serious filmmakers and actors that they want to take their films in a classier direction.
More Dark Knight, less Fantastic Four.
Regardless of who gets cast and who produces, the project will be facing an uphill battle. First and foremost, what makes the Joker so scary is the fact that his origins and motives remain somewhat unknown. The modern desire in pop culture to explain everything through prequels and origin stories runs counter to that notion. Heath Ledger’s incarnation of the character was aided by the idea that you never understood how he ended up this way. By knowing the ins and outs of his childhood or formative years, it removes any semblance of mystery.
All of that is to say nothing of the fact that this would mean multiple versions of The Joker happening concurrently in the DC Extended Universe. DC hasn’t really hit the landing yet on its initial franchise, so why are they already trying to branch out into multiverse versions of their characters? What happens if everyone prefers this version of The Joker? Do they kick Jared Leto out and magically insert him into the already-existing storyline? Why would DC invest in a “lesser” version if they have a better one right there?
Instead of doing one thing very well, DC could end up doing multiple things mediocre, and then they’re right back where they started: with the joke on them.