This year Warner Bros reversed their superhero fortunes with their smash-hit Wonder Woman, by entrusting the property to auteur director Patty Jenkins and allowing her to bring her vision to life. DC Films’ previous efforts, including Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, fell short critically and in the eyes of many DC Comics’ fans. The overwhelming consensus has been that those movies were hindered by studio inference during post-production, however it seem that things are finally changing on the WB lot.
The studio has abandoned their original 10-film slate and are in the process of modifying their upcoming releases on the fly. In recent months we’ve learned that they are intent on expanding the “world” of Gotham City, by focusing films on Nightwing, Batgirl, and Gotham City Sirens, while nabbing high-profile directors for the projects including Chris McKay and Joss Whedon. Once you consider that the studio almost lured Mel Gibson into directing Suicide Squad 2, it’s clear that they are making a lot of movies that will be paired with directors with distinct voices.
Just when things seemed to just start making sense in the DC universe, we have been thrown another curve ball courtesy of Deadline. The trade reports that an origin story for The Joker is currently being crafted by The Hangover writer and director Todd Phillips. Phillips will be at the helm of the movie and is co-writing the script with Scott Silver (8 Mile) And here’s the kicker… None other than film legend Martin Scorsese will be producing the upcoming film that’s being described as such:
The intention is to make a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early-’80s Gotham City that isn’t meant to feel like a DC movie as much as one of Scorsese’s films from that era, like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or The King Of Comedy. I’m told that Phillips and Silver are writing already, but there is nothing firm on where this will fit into the DC schedule.
Up until this point, Scorsese has shown little interest in the superhero genre. But grounding the period piece as a hard-edged mob drama sounds like the perfect material for him to oversee. The mob movie has lost its popularity at the movie theaters in recent years, with much of its influence diffused into quality television programming, with shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, scratching the familiar itch that Scorsese mastered decades prior.
Now here is where things get interesting…
The origin movie won’t star Jared Leto and another actor will be taking on the role of the Joker. However, Leto will return for the Suicide Squad sequel as well as the upcoming Harley Quinn spin-off movie as needed. The movie also will not be connected to any other DC Films’ production to date. This is part of a larger effort by Warner Bros to diversify their DC Comics’ library on film. According to the trade, the Joker origin movie “will be the first film under a new banner that has yet to be named in which WB can expand the canon of DC properties and create unique storylines with different actors playing the iconic characters.”
This actually sheds light on a lot of the recent moves by the studio and also explains how they can continue milking the Batman brand, even if Ben Affleck retires from wearing the cape and cowl. This “new banner” more than likely will be the home for more mature comic book films, that are not connected to the DC Extended Universe. Apparently, Warner Bros will be mimicking the comics and creating their own cinematic multiverse for fans to follow.
Phillips isn’t known for hard-hitting dramas, however with the guidance of Scorsese this could be a fresh addition to the medium. While Christopher Nolan leaned into the mob elements of the Batman lore as well, the story was from the viewpoint of Bruce Wayne and was closer to The Untouchables, than Goodfellas. However, the Joker and his gang of goons could certainly fill that vacuum and in the process, give the movie a chance to be transcendent.
In the past couple of years there have been several success stories for adult comic book fare, highlighted by Deadpool and Logan. If the Joker origin movie is handled with the same level of authenticity and focus on making a solid crime movie, this could be memorable. It’s unclear if Batman will appear in the film, however in most iterations the Bat is at least tangentially involved in the super-villain’s creation. If so, it’s hard to imagine that he would be seen in the Bruce Wayne persona, however with a Venom and Silver and Black movies on the way without Spider-Man, we will see if the creative team has a solid take.
There isn’t a finished script or release date, however it’s hard to imagine Scorsese jumping on board without an incredibly compelling story that’s already been outlined. There’s a lot more to come on this one, as this could shape up to be one of the biggest movies in whatever year it’s released.
There is not a release date for yet for the Joker origin film.
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