It's taken all of a week for leaked test footage and set photos to change the main question about the Joaquin Phoenix-as-Joker film from "Why do we need a Joker solo film" to "How soon is this insane Joker film getting here?"
And yet while enthusiasm, the project, directed by Todd Philips (best known for directing The Hangover franchise), features an eclectic cast ranging from Robert De Niro to Atlanta and Deadpool 2 star Zazie Beetz. Every nugget of new info surrounding this movie has left fans with more questions than answers. Does the movie connect at all to DC's current extended movie universe? Is it possible to pull off a Joker movie that (more than likely) won't feature Batman at all? What happens to Jared Leto's version from Suicide Squad? (Well, maybe not that last one.)
Here's what we do we know at this point: The film is set during the '90s. This version of the Joker will apparently have a real name (Arthur Fleck), something that outside of Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman, has been left out the Joker's mythology. Martin Scorsese, who was at one time rumored to be a producer on this film, should not be overlooked as an influence on this story. As it has also been mentioned that this Joker movie will be similar in feel to Scorsese's 1982 film The King of Comedy, which featured De Niro as an unhinged frustrated comedian who went to extreme lengths to finally get his 15 minutes of fame. But outside of these bits of information, we don't really have much to go on when it comes to where this movie might be going.
With that in mind, SYFY WIRE has put together a list of three potential storylines from the almost 80-year history of the Joker, ranking them from least to most likely to be influential on the film:
This upcoming title, to be published under DC's new Black Label imprint, will be written by the company's former Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns. The story itself will pick up on a storyline Johns hinted at within the pages of Justice League two years ago, that introduced the idea that there is not one but THREE separate individuals in the DC Universe who have taken up the mantle of the Joker.
The reason this book might have some narrative connection to the upcoming movie is that prior to his recent departure as an executive, Johns co-helmed the movie slate of DC characters at Warner Bros. as this film was going into development.
It opens up the possibility of Leto and Phoenix at least existing in the same movieverse, which would work well with the setting for this upcoming film. It also speaks to the fact that DC is BIG on legacy characters, both their heroes and villains. Batman alone has begotten numerous Robins, a trio of Batgirls, and a Batwoman, just to name a few of the numerous characters who make up the extended "Bat-family." Who's to say this isn't DC's attempt to establish a similar legacy for the Bat's worst enemy? A line of criminals who've terrorized Gotham for decades.
This stunning 125-page graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo was as light on Batman as you could get, as the Dark Knight appeared in a grand total of nine pages. The focus instead was on the title character, fresh out of Arkham Asylum and attempting to put his crew back together and bend Gotham to his will once again. The story, as told through the eyes of a low-level thug by the name of Jonny Frost, took readers through the appeal of working for such a charismatic figure, and the abject terror that comes from eventually realizing that you're never the Joker's "friend," something Jonny would find that out the hard way by the end of the story.
If you want a thoroughly Joker-centric story that details why he may not be respected but most assuredly feared, this is your story. The movie looks to have a truly dark tone to it and this would really work if you intended to establish and build a movie franchise around the character going forward.
The Killing Joke (1988):
If the film is indeed going the origin route, there's no more concise blueprint for the journey from sad sack standup comic to a psychopath than The Killing Joke. (The Joker himself relaying that origin story, so we as the reader are meant to understand that he might not necessarily be telling us the whole truth. Would make for a lot of post-movie conversations, that's for sure.
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's classic focuses on The Joker looking to prove his theory that all of us are just one bad day away from descending into madness. That it only takes one day of horrific circumstances to turn anyone into a scarred, damaged, detached soul like him. Judging from the few images we've seen thus far, this movie's Joker will be similarly screwed up, though he's certainly much more defiant and cocky than the beaten down soul we see in The Killing Joke.