Warning: spoilers ahead for The LEGO Batman Movie and Suicide Squad. Don't read any further if you are not up to date on the latest DC films!
If you have seen The LEGO Batman Movie, then you likely already know that it is a revelation. The animated Batman adventure is a hilarious and endlessly faithful take on the Gotham City mythos, and it is one of the best versions of Batman ever committed to film. The film clearly did its homework, and its depictions of vital Batman elements are damn near perfect. In fact, The LEGO Batman Movie's version of The Joker is so good, that it is even better than Suicide Squad at capturing one vital aspect of The Clown's personality: his obsession with Batman.
Of all the villains who inhabit Batman's rogue gallery, there is no one more intimately linked to The Caped Crusader than The Clown Prince of Crime. The Joker is obsessed with Batman, and most of the best versions of the character have explicitly played up that obsession. Scott Snyder's Death of the Family story arc revolves around Joker trying to make Batman a better hero by killing the rest of The Bat Family, and The Dark Knight depicted a Joker literally "completed" by Batman.
If there's one constant in this endlessly malleable character, it's the fact that he lives for his relationship with The Caped Crusader. That's one of the key aspects of the character, and it's an idea that The LEGO Batman Movie leans directly into. Zach Galifianakis's LEGO Joker wants nothing more than for LEGO Batman to acknowledge their shared connection, and the core conflict of The LEGO Batman Movie stems from that idea. It's a well-worn concept from Batman's lore, and it's an idea that longtime Batman fans will instantly recognize from previous depictions of the character.
However, Suicide Squad doesn't capture that idea at all. David Ayer's film depicts Joker as little more than a clown-themed Gotham City gangster, and the short amount of time that he shares with The Dark Knight on the silver screen shows him barely acknowledging his arch nemesis. He seems inconvenienced by the arrival of Batman more than anything else, and he mysteriously escapes (leaving Harley behind) at the first opportunity. That's not the showman we all know and love.
What makes this even more curious is the fact that Suicide Squad clearly implies the idea that The Joker's Killing Joke origin is canon within the DCEU. The Clown Prince of Crime specifically takes Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) to Ace Chemicals to dump her in a vat of chemicals to bleach her skin, and it's heavily suggested that this is how he became the grotesque figure that he is today. His origin is specifically tied to Batman's existence in that regard, and his obsession with the brooding hero should take center stage.
Before we go any further, I want to acknowledge the fact that I know that The Joker is a very flexible character. He has been depicted a number of different ways by many different actors and artists over the years, so the folks behind Suicide Squad had every right to make him a less Batman-obsessed character. However, in terms of honoring precedent and feeling genuinely faithful to what the best previous depictions have made out of this character, The LEGO Batman Movie got Joker right. Suicide Squad did not.
If Leto returns to the role in the future, let's hope that the DCEU can rectify it and give us a version of The Joker that feels far more faithful to what we know about him. If he needs to do some research before he comes back, I can easily recommend The LEGO Batman Movie as a valid resource.
What do you think? Did you like Suicide Squad's less Batman-obsessed version of The Joker, or do you think The LEGO Batman Movie got it right? Let us know what you think in the comments section below to give us your thoughts on this matter!
The LEGO Batman Movie is currently playing in theaters, while Suicide Squad is available on home media.