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Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

I imagine it comes as no surprise to someone reading this site to hear that comic book movie fans are quite precious about how their favorite characters are portrayed onscreen. That’s what makes this fall’s Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix so interesting, because it looks to be a very different interpretation of the iconic Batman villain than we are used to seeing. Joker director Todd Phillips is well aware of the perilous nature of that choice, but reminds fans that there will always be another Joker, saying:

There are always going to be naysayers, but from what I gather about the momentum of the movie and the response to the teaser we put out, the majority of fans seem to be excited about going down a different road. But also, this will not be the last Joker movie ever made. It might be the last one Joaquin and I do, but someone else is going to come along and do another one, just like with Spider-Man. So if you don’t like this one, don’t worry — it’ll get reinvented again.

Todd Phillips is absolutely correct, these superhero movies are modern day myths, told and retold, not in an oral tradition but in a cinematic one. They change in the telling but inevitably someone else will come along and offer a different take. So to fans that may not like what Todd Phillips does with the Crown Prince of Crime in Joker, he offers the comforting reassurance that his movie is not the final say for the character and Joker will be reinvented again.

This has been proven throughout comic book movie history so it is not the end of the world if you don’t like the unique interpretation in Joker. Although he’s not set to appear in Birds of Prey opposite Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Jared Leto’s Joker could return in a future film and although the rumors suggest other villains for Matt Reeves’ Batman movie, you’ve got to think that Robert Pattinson’s Caped Crusader will square off with the Joker at some point.

In his discussion with the Los Angeles Times, Todd Phillips cites Spider-Man as an example of a superhero who has been reinvented multiple times. The Sam Raimi franchise came to an end with Spider-Man 3 then we got the Amazing Spider-Man films. For those who didn’t like that interpretation of the web-slinger, we got the Tom Holland MCU version, which TBD on what happens with that.

The same is true for Batman who emerged from the campiness of the Joel Schumacher era and rose to unprecedented heights in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. There is always another reinvention with these characters, so Todd Phillips is right, while it will be disappointing if we don’t like Joker, it’s a one-off and another Joker movie will inevitably come along that we might love.

All indications are that will be a very different onscreen Joker. Todd Phillips has said that he didn’t follow anything from the comics and the film’s producer has said that it is unlike any other comic book movie. Star Brian Tyree Henry has also teased that it will feature a very different version of the character than we’ve seen before.

Although Todd Phillips seems to be offering up a premature defense here, as he admits, Joker is being greeted with more anticipation and excitement than skepticism. Fans have taken to the trailers and are excited about what he and Joaquin Phoenix have done.

I think that some of that open-mindedness from the fanbase has to do with knowing Joaquin Phoenix is going to deliver a great performance, but more so the fact that this is a standalone film. Joker isn’t setting Phoenix’s character to square off with Robert Pattinson, so in some ways the stakes are lower. This Joker only affects this film. Things are different within cinematic universes, DC or Marvel, where the choices made reverberate well beyond a single film’s runtime.

That’s the freedom that Joker represents and DC may enjoy if it focuses less on building a cinematic universe akin to Marvel and instead just tries to make good movies.

You can judge Todd Phillips’ vision of the Joker when Joker hits theaters on October 4. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to prepare for everything coming out later this year.

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