I’ve wanted to talk about the upcoming Joker movie just about since it’s been announced, but I always wait a little bit too long, and the conversation stops, and it seems like it’s not the time anymore.
With the full trailer released just a couple of days ago, though, the opportunity seems to have risen again to make me comments while the conversation is still going on. So here we go.
First off let me say, I am somewhat looking forward to this film. Joaquin Phoenix is a great actor, and the film looks fantastic, with some stellar direction and cinematography.
Having said that, I don’t know if I get this film. Which is to say, I’m not sure why it exists.
The short answer, of course, is that it’s a origin story for the character of the Joker from the Batman comics, which most people are seeing as a bold an exciting move, because the Joker has traditionally never had a concrete origin. Even in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke which is about the closest we’ve come to canon on the matter, the Joker admits that some days he remembers it one say, some days he remembers it a different one, so it’s likely that the origin told in those pages might not even be the real thing.
So the idea of creating a set-in-stone origin for the character should at least be interesting, in theory.
But, if you ask me, an origin story is only interesting in how it relates to the rest of what we know about the character. And this origin story is or a version of the Joker that … well, doesn’t exist anywhere else.
It’s not an origin for Heath Ledger’s version of Jered Leto’s version. It’s an origin for Joaquin Phoenix’s version which, at least as far as I can tell, exists outside of the rest of the DCEU continuity and who might not ever appear in anything again.
So, what does this origin matter?
Think of it like this. Imagine that Disney had made Solo: A Star Wars Story except it was entirely out of canon, all the things it revealed about the character only existed in a separate, alternate universe that had no connection to the rest of the Star Wars films. What would be the point?
(I mean, you can already argue that Solo was pointless, but that’s a whole other matter).
The Joker is a character that is defined by his relationship to Batman. This is such a central point to the character that it’s been stated explicitly in many of his stories (“You complete me,” Ledger memorably says in The Dark Knight). I’m not saying that you can’t tell a Joker story that doesn’t have Batman, but I think you have to try really hard to not create something that’s essentially pointless.
So that’s it. That’s my problem. I don’t get what this film is meant to be.
I mean do, I guess. It looks like a kind-of re-imagining of Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, with a coat of super-hero paint on it to make it stand out in the 2019 landscape.
But then it’s not really a Joker movie, is it? It’s just a movie that happens to have the Joker in it. And what’s the point of that?