Tuesday was a fascinating day in the realm of comic book casting news and speculation. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man possibly added Anchorman 2 co-star Paul Rudd in its lead role. It was revealed that Warner Bros. was looking at Her star Joaquin Phoenix for its Batman-Superman team-up movie, possibly playing megalomaniac Lex Luthor. All of these options are extremely intriguing, but it was the continued absence of a major comic character that surprised (and pleased) me.
Recognizing this might be heresy, I think the clown prince needs to be kept out of the developing D.C. cinematic universe. Batman (Ben Affleck) might be joining Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel franchise – which looks more and more like a Justice League movie with each passing casting decision – but he shouldn’t bring his psychotic nemesis with him. Not for a long time, anyway.
The Joker has a rich history on screen, playing a significant part of each silver-screen iteration of the Caped Crusader. Michael Keaton had his Jack Nicholson, obviously:
And Christian Bale locked horns with the unforgettable Heath Ledger in the late actor’s Oscar-winning role:
"There’s no going back," Ledger says. "You changed things. Forever."
And he’s right. The Dark Knight changed how storytellers need to approach future Batman movies. And I believe that means leaving The Joker on the shelf for the immediate future. The vision of Ledger is still to fresh in all of our memories. There are SO MANY Batman and Superman villains who haven’t had their time on screen yet. While I’m not particularly thrilled that Luthor could be pulled into the fray so soon – because like the Joker, Lex just seems to appear every time we get a new version of Superman – Snyder’s movie is a Man of Steel sequel, and there are plot points in place that can help explain why Luthor would show up and start to pull strings.
The Joker is another problem. A larger, more complicated problem. Trying to introduce him into this universe, which leans heavily on science-fiction (so far) and already has to juggle introductions for Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman, could be the straw that breaks the sequel’s back. I understand that I’m depriving Affleck of a golden opportunity to square off against Batman’s primary nemesis. Every superhero should have the opportunity to face what fans see as his or her chief rival. Henry Cavill likely is going to get to go toe-to-toe with a new Luthor. Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man will confront The Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Iron Man even faced The Mandarin … well, sort of.
The Joker doesn’t belong in this D.C. cinematic universe, though. Not yet. It’s too soon after Ledger. On the surface, he doesn’t seem to fit in the world Snyder is building. And jamming him in would feel like lip service to a fan base who likely will se satisfied with seeing Batman and Superman on the same screen, after years and years of waiting.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here. Snyder hasn’t made any moves that suggest he plans to add The Joker to his Man of Steel universe. I mean, Jason Momoa probably isn’t putting on the pancake make up to play Batman’s legendary foe. But with all of these interesting casting decisions flying around – and Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio coming on board to polish the script Snyder and David Goyer have in place – I thought it was time to thank Warner, D.C. and team Man of Steel for keeping The Joker out of this growing franchise … and I hope they continue to keep him out for the near future.