With superheroes and cinematic universes reigning supreme in today's cinematic industry, Warner Bros Pictures have perhaps made their most controversial move in the game yet: a Joker-oriented spin-off film. But, let's break down this news a little more and dive into some pros and cons.

For starters, let's discuss the news itself. So, as the scoop from Deadline reports, it seems as though DC's founding cinema studio Warner Bros. are currently at the negotiation stage for getting a solo Joker film on the road; The Hangover Trilogy and War Dogs director Todd Phillips is in the hot-seat to direct it, as well as co-write it with Scott Silver - who penned both 8 Mile and The Fighter. More interestingly, though, is the name that is in talks to produce the film, turning this whole story on its head: Martin Scorsese. The film will focus on The Joker's origin, being described as "a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early 80s Gotham City". It's definitely a very intriguing description, and with Scorsese attached, we can expect that the studio will most likely be trying to create something in the vein of Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Taxi Driver.
However, on top of all of this, it is being reported that Jared Leto - who was cast as the DCEU's Clown Prince of Crime for last Summer's Suicide Squad - will not be reprising his role for this. The reason being that this spin-off won't be a part of the extended universe but will rather exist on its own merit as a standalone (a comic-book film not part of a larger universe or a franchise, that stands as a singular piece of entertainment? well, isn't that something). The idea is that this film will launch a new slate of DC films that will explore the lore of various different DC characters but that will never be a part of the DCEU itself and will stand alone as solo outings; it's certainly an interesting concept that could open the doors up for very different comic-book films of varying tones, stories and styles to be made that won't be bound by the laws of the main DCEU canon. Given this is how comic-books themselves work (a plethora of stories and characters never necessarily all coinciding with one another), this grander "multiverse" of films has potential to really add a new dimension and layer to the genre and to these cinematic universes.

It's no surprise that this news is quite the topic of interest at the moment. The Joker is, personally, my favourite fictional character of all-time and I'm a little taken aback by news of an entire feature-length film focusing on the character. This report has certainly stirred up a fair bit of controversy, with many brows furled at the idea. Naturally, this will spark big discussion and heated debates amongst comic-book fans. But, maybe it's not all bad. Here are some pros and cons that we should address:


  • LORE TO EXPLORE: DC's Agent of Chaos isn't just one of the most iconic supervillains in DC history but he's just one of the most iconic supervillains ever. Hell, The Joker is just one of the most beloved fictional characters, period. There are plenty of great stories to be told involving him. The Killing Joke is perhaps the most famous, but one that is dated. However, we also have Brian Azzarello's terrific Joker (a personal favourite); Batman: The Man Who Laughs; even the late 1980s Arkham Asylum. And that's just to name a few. The stories are endless. And they are some haunting and terrifying looks at this truly insane character that would make a great basis for a film.
  • A NEW FACE: Whilst I certainly didn't hate Jared Leto's performance in Suicide Squad, it was squandered potential. This new Joker film will mean that a new actor can step up to the mantle and give their best poker face - or joker face, rather - which is, frankly, just exciting! Big casting hype for coveted comic-book roles are always a lot of fun to follow and, with a character as beloved as this, there is sure to be a lot of excitement to find out who will be next to follow the likes of Nicholson, Ledger, and Leto. Hopefully, whoever they are, they can maybe try to bring a nice menace and personality to the character. Hey, we don't want a Heath Ledger impersonation. We just want a good, unique take on Mr. J. And I'll be doing a cast this feature on my top picks to take the role in the coming days so stay tuned for that.
  • SILVER-SCREEN, SILVER SCREENPLAY:  With these comic-book announcements, the casual fan is quick to dismiss the minds at work writing the film. In this instance, as mentioned earlier, we have Scott Silver and Todd Phillips - who will also be at the helm. Silver is quite the talent when it comes to writing. His filmography may be limited but it's promising, nonetheless. He's an Academy-Award nominee, snagging a nomination for his screenplay for the brilliant The Fighter. He also penned 8-Mile, which was also very good. And Disney's The Finest Hours is underrated too - another of his screenplays. Meanwhile, Phillips' body of work tends to aim more squarely in the comedic department, but it's still a showcase of good skills - Due Date and the first Hangover, at least, are very funny. He has proven himself a strong director and writing alongside Silver could push this in a very interesting direction.
  • SCORSESE: THE KING OF CRIME: One of The Joker's comic-book nicknames is The Clown Prince of Crime. Well, Martin Scorsese is the king of crime. If you look at the legendary director's filmography, his history with the genre on the silver screen proves this beyond a doubt. Scorsese's skills in the crime genre are pertinent to this film, given its taking heavy inspiration from some of his earlier work. It's worth noting, however, that the Academy-Award winning director is merely attached as a producer. So this won't be "a Martin Scorsese film", the way Free Fire or Bleed For This aren't (other films he has produced) but this doesn't mean that he can't guide the film in the right direction and put it on track. With his mind and talent involved, it certainly means there's potential. A lot of it. The film may have Phillips' fingerprints, but with Scorsese's guidance, it could make for a compelling crime drama. Maybe now, we'll actually see The Clown Prince of CRIME in his truest sense.
  • A NEW ERA OF COMIC-BOOK FILMS: Regardless of how good this film turns out to be, Warner Bros. are really going all-out on delivering the "comic-book" experience with this multiverse - if you will. The DCEU hasn't had the smoothest run thus far and things aren't looking promising for future DCEU installments. However, with this solo set of stand alone films, maybe not all hope is lost. If the studio decide to wind things down with their universe, this could be a good way forward; what's most exciting here is the potential to usher in all kinds of different comic-book films - from crime to horror (here's looking to you Venom) and whatnot and it allows for this comic-book formula to be molded in very interesting ways that we've not necessarily seen before. I joked earlier about seeing a comic book film stand as a singular piece of entertainment but it's actually uncommon to see and, whilst these universes can be fun, it could be refreshing to see a film on its own. There's no real precedent for this Joker film. It could turn out to be very good and unique. There's  less pressure on these films and it can also allow studios to give more creative freedom to their directors. There are no future film setups required; no universe to tease; no sequel to tease; no franchise to intertwine with, but just one film to enjoy for what it is. One story. Like a singular comic-book.
  • IT'S THE JOKER... WHY SO SERIOUS?: It's The Joker. Why all the controversy? This is one of the greatest fictional characters ever. He is unhinged, terrifying and just crazy. There are no limits to what you could do with this character. We could actually get an old-fashioned, noir, crime-drama featuring The Joker. How cool does that sound? With such an anarchic character, the storytelling possibilities are endless. So put a smile on that face and stop being so serious about it. Imagine the kind of dark, hard-boiled Joker story we could see. Because it would be fucking awesome.
Of course, where there a pros.... there are also some cons. And, sadly, there are also a few good reasons that this Joker spin-off film could be a bad idea.


  •  ARKHAM ORIGINS: THE JOKER: Can you imagine another film that truly butchers a beloved comic-book character the way X-Men Origins: Wolverine did? I know I said above that The Joker has a plethora of great stories to dig into, but not origin associated. If we're going to get a film focused on The Joker, an origin story definitely isn't the way to go. What makes this character so great is he is just mad. He is crazy. And he thinks he is justifiably so. There's a sinister depth to him because of this intrigue. Leave that be. We don't need to see what turned him into this psychotic supervillain when the mystery makes him all the more compelling a character. The Killing Joke is an origin. And whilst it is a good comic-book, it is dated. And we saw it put to film. It didn't work. Warner Bros: AVOID AN ORIGIN STORY!
  • BIG SHOES TO FILL: A gimmick that clowns often use is the use of big shoes to add to their wacky aesthetic but that imagery applies to this clown, specifically, very well because, as I said, a new Joker will be cast but they have big shoes to fill. We don't want another Heath Ledger impression but, when you have a performance as masterful as that (one of my favourite cinematic performances by an actor ever) then it's hard to stand out. Nothing can compare to that. Sure, we want a good/unique Joker but, for some time, the Ledger comparisons will be plaguing this actor and this performance. Because of the cinematic history and legacy and weight that this character carries, maybe it's best if we leave The Clown Prince of Crime to rest on the silver-screen for a while and focus on other villains.
  • SCORSESE IS ONLY PRODUCING: I know that I listed Scorsese's involvement as a pro, which it is. But it can also be considered a negative because who knows how heavily he will be involved with the film. It could be minimal. Christopher Nolan produced Batman v Superman, but that was mediocre and nowhere near as good as any of his own Dark Knight films. Steven Spielberg produced Transformers and, well... that film is as far away from a Spielberg film as you can get. You get the point. Scorsese has a good track record for the films he has produced, though. Let's hope it stays that way. But, don't go into this thinking it's a Scorsese film because it's not. If he was writing or directing, the whole story would be different and we would all be on board. But he's not. The story is out of his hands.
  • SMALL DOSES: My love for this character is unapologetic and I can talk about why this character is so great and riveting for ages. But, his history on-screen proves that he works best in small doses. This is a character that will appear every so often to stir some trouble and relish in that. He is a character that needs a protagonist to riff off of and to attack; he needs a pawn for his antics - that's why he worked so well in The Dark Knight. However, focusing an entire film on him, and one that follows his origin, could diminish him as this feared and intimidating and badass antagonist. The Joker works in small doses. Too small and it's not enough to make an impression, as Suicide Squad has shown; too much and it could ruin that impression.
  • TWO TIMELINES, TWO PROBLEMS: As I mentioned, the DCEU has had a rocky takeoff. Thankfully, Wonder Woman was great and showed that the DCEU can be great. But it is one film. Out of 4 so far. Whilst none of the others are horrible, they fail to make an impression. What if this problem continues into this second slate of standalone films Warner Bros. are planning? Sure enough, if these films stand alone, it reduces pressure for future films because there are fewer links and intertwining - the way there is within the DCEU and even the MCU, for that matter. However, if the studio are still struggling to master their formula, then maybe this Joker spin-off - the first in slate 2 - might not be the exceptional film that fans need it to be. It's a clean slate, sure enough. But it's risky, nonetheless. It could be great but it just could be bad too. War Dogs wasn't the best, and neither were the last two Hangover films. Can Todd Phillips handle a gritty, hard-edged crime film - let alone one involving The Joker, so weighted with more hype and more expectation. Also, with two Jokers existing at the same time, in the same studio, it could cause a lot of confusion and a lot of potential drama for both the actors and for the studio. Two timelines... two problems? Hopefully not. But it's certainly not out of the question. It's risky business for Warner Bros.
So, there are some positivities to be found in this announcement. Of course, the debate will still be hot and this is a film that will remain controversial for some time still. But the truth is, the film is still being written. It's a good couple of years down the line - at the very least. Anything can happen in that time. This film can go in any direction and, frankly, we won't know until we see it. Sure, there are some things to be wary of; some glaring problems that make me skeptical. But there's a lot to like too and to be excited about - and I only listed a few; there's plenty more. So let's all just wait and see how this goes before we begin judging it. There's potential.

Only time will tell, though, just how this film turns out to be. The next film to come from DC is Justice League, which will open in cinemas on November 17th, 2017. You can next see Jared Leto's The Joker in Suicide Squad 2 and Gotham City Sirens, which are both currently in development over at WB. 

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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