The more information that comes out about this alleged Joker prequel movie the less it sounds like they care about the source material. In fact Empire just released a snippet of an interview (as a teaser to buy their magazine) with Todd Phillips, the director of Martin Scorsese’s vision for the backstory of the Joker…which is their first mistake because lack of an actual history prior to his acid bath is an important part of the character. But he came from a comic book so they don’t care.
And that’s not just me being cynical. In the interview snippet Phillips outright said he’s ignoring the comics, much like a lot of DC’s recent fare, which has been the problem for classic DC fans. Unless you count Shazam! going with Geoff Johns’ messed up re-imagining of Billy Batson and his world of course. The question that will have to keep coming up is…then why are you making a movie about an iconic comic book character who predates you?
Sometimes he’s the man beneath the Red Hood. In some instances he’s a wannabe-comedian who took a tumble into a toxic vat of Ace Chemicals. In Tim Burton’s “Batman” he’s the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents. And soon, we’re going to get a whole new origin story for one of the most iconic characters of all time – in comics, in films, in popular culture full-stop – in Todd Phillips’ “Joker”. A radical new take on the Clown Prince of Crime, inspired by Scorsese and the hard-edged urban cinema of the 1970s, this time it’s Joaquin Phoenix under the happy-face make-up – and it’s an incarnation that breaks all the rules around the ultimate rule-breaking character.
Mistake #2, and the same one Christopher Nolan made in The Dark Knight; he isn’t wearing make-up. Joker’s complexion and hair color are the result of falling into a vat of chemicals while committing a crime as The Red Hood. Nobody is supposed to know who he is. Burton giving Joker a name and even Batman: The Animated Series both giving him the name Burton gave him, Jack Napier, and the mob flunky backstory in Mask Of The Phantasm (also taken from Burton’s first movie) diminishes the character. It gives him a name, a history, a face…that he’ll probably rip off and use as a mask. Yes, that’s also the problem with DC’s “three Jokers” idea as it weakens the chaotic insanity that is the Joker.
The August 2019 issue of Empire – on sale from Thursday 11 July – takes a world-exclusive look inside the low-budget, hyper-intense comic book movie – and according to Phillips, it’s going to be its own unique beast. “We didn’t follow anything from the comic-books, which people are gonna be mad about,” the writer-director tells Empire. “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from. That’s what was interesting to me. We’re not even doing Joker, but the story of becoming Joker. It’s about this man.”
Question: why does this story have to be the DC comics character? You could just do a story about a failed comedian who goes insane. The failed comic idea started with Alan Moore, the guy who is probably the most cynical and negative person about superheroes this side of Bill Maher, as part of The Killing Joke, and apparently that book and The Dark Knight Returns/Batman: Year One are the only influences these movie makers want to go with, like they read a list of famous Bat-Stories and went with that.
That man is Arthur Fleck – a vulnerable, damaged man who will eventually, inevitably, become the card-carrying psychopathic criminal who strikes out at Gotham City. And for the filmmakers, Phoenix was always the man for the role. “I think he’s the greatest actor,” says Phillips. “We had a photo of him above our computer while we were writing. We constantly thought, ‘God, imagine if Joaquin actually does this.’” We won’t have to imagine – we’ll see the finished film in all its glory in UK cinemas from 4 October.
Empire is a UK magazine similar to Entertainment Weekly, which I think is going monthly so they’ll have to change their name. So we have another “real name” for the Joker…and that’s what you’re going with? Arthur Fleck? I don’t know a lot about Joaquin Phoenix so I don’t if he’s the right guy to play the Joker. Heck, Henry Cavil could have been a great Superman but he ended up doing Zack Snyder’s version and I still maintain Val Kilmer could have worked if not for Joel Schumacher and his writers giving him just a terrible script to work with. Instead we have a movie by a director who admits he doesn’t care about the source material, is giving us a movie that probably wouldn’t be talked about nearly as much if it wasn’t an iconic villain, and probably is one of those elitists who hate comic books and superheroes and wants to take a base concept and make it “better” because they only care about concepts these days, not the characters and cultural icons of our modern fictional mythology. What has this guy worked on anyway?
- A Star Is Born: Okay, people liked that but hardly makes him qualified to work on a supervillain story (because even DC hates their own superheroes–they’re doing another villain-themed event)
- The Hangover franchise: That’s not promising.
- Starsky & Hutch, the mockstalgia movie from 2004…really not helping
- Let’s see, Project X, Road Trip…yes, he produced some of these instead of directed but it gives you some idea what to expect
And frankly I’m not expecting much. Look, this movie might work as an original IP but you’re just using a famous name because you don’t trust your own idea to stand on it’s own without it, or trying to do a “better version” because you think you can win people away from those “silly superhero comics”…I don’t know which if not both. What I do know is that two people with no understanding about the Joker want to make a Joker prequel because they love making stories about broken people but don’t have enough faith to create an original character and want to play off the boom of superhero movies. This is why comic and even video game fans (because Detective Pikachu is the first video game adaptation that works, like Battle Angel Alita is doing for anime fans…and neither film is perfect) as well as the nostalgic are getting upset with Hollywood. You can get proper adaptations of books, but everything else is being mocked or stripped for base concepts by people who don’t care about the characters and don’t have the guts to put out something under an original name. Even Marvel Studios is starting to slip given the Skrulls of Captain Marvel and Carol’s altered “I don’t need no man” origin. You know, given modern creators’ further and further obsession with psychologically damaged criminals you’d think they would take the time to actually understand them and their place in mythology. But that would be going below the surface of a character beyond the base concept, which is too much like effort for stuff they don’t care about.
So why are they making movies with characters they don’t care about? Even the elitists have an “everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeeee” chapter.