On Why Not Everyone Will See Todd Phillips’ Joker

6 Nov

Image result for joker movie posterBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Just a little more than a month since the release of Joker, I simply don’t have the interest to see Todd Phillips’ box office smash hit. Enough has been spoiled online, where just going will simply be a waste of time. In the DC Comics universe, many writers ranging from original creator Jerry Robinson to Alan Moore (The Killing Joke), have done their character study and to add another take feels like overkill.

From animation to video games, not all of these clown prince(s) of crime are going to behave the same. Some will take on the chilling appeal ala Charles Manson and others are just troubled individuals. The Joker, for me, is an embodiment of chaos. His mania developed to a point where he can’t pull off a caper without getting Batman getting involved. This version never commits anything low-key.

Enough has been said about how Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is excellent and I understand the need to keep him current to today’s social context. Rebecca Ruban of Variety reported on how Jeff Bock, a senior media analyst with Exhibitor Relations said, “Younger audiences are championing this film in much the same way the youthful demographic of the day rallied around ‘Natural Born Killers’ or ‘Clockwork Orange’ or ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Each film was violent in its own way, and presumedly had something to say about society’s shortcomings, as theses films jacked into the cinematic synapses of moviegoers, making them taking points, and thus having much longer shelf life’s than their competitors.”

In cinema, just how often audiences need that origin story will depend. There’s enough modern day whack jobs to show how rampant crime today can get. In the past, I can’t help but think of how Al Capone got away with his crime sprees. Now imagine him and H.H. Holmes put together into one mind! Some villains are so well known and it’s okay to skip making another origin movie.


Travis Langley wrote Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight and asserted, “They’ve given many origins of the Joker, how he came to be. That doesn’t seem to matter—just how he is now …. it takes away some of the essential mystery.”

Certain iterations of the Joker are very memorable and from that, to improve upon is impossible. Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger‘s take made a huge impact and when news dropped of this standalone movie, I was one of many to ask, why? Unless the relationship between him and the caped crusader gets an effective examination in what the two mean to each other (like in the LEGO Batman movie), I knew right away this film would be a skipper.

Even The LA Times reported that Phillips has no plans to make a follow-up and we shouldn’t expect to see this version square off against a grown-up Batman. “We would never do that,” he said to Josh Rottenberg in this article. “No, no. We’d just want to see where he goes from there.”

Image result for joker elseworlds

In this Elseworlds Tale, Batman does the impossible…

I consider this film to be an Elseworlds tale. He may well inspire another crazed criminal who has the skills to hold an entire city hostage. Arthur Fleck has a lot of learning to do before he can torment Gotham and that may well be a movie in itself. All this guy can do is rally the troops–the common man. Zack Snyder may simply kill off this version if Crisis on Infinite Earth ever gets realized on the big screen and have the real one come forward to be the thorn he’ll always be on Batman’s side.

Or perhaps, this movie will provide a Casino Royale-style reset for the Batman universe, wiping out every trace of over-the-top silliness, so Matt Reeves’ The Batman (due in 2021) can start out with a fresh slate as Ben Child of The Guardian observed. “Phillips’ film certainly sets up a future confrontation between Batman and the Joker – the former has an axe to grind because Fleck’s actions inadvertently led to the murder of his parents, while the latter resents Bruce Wayne for getting the gilded upbringing he believes he was cruelly denied.”

Wherever this film fits in Warner Bros DC Comics plans, it will all come to head whenever the Justice League sequel comes out and we see who makes up the Legion of Doom. As I recall, he was never given an invitation in the cartoon and they can’t have a maverick ruin their plans.

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