Joker Director Todd Phillips Set The Movie In The ‘80s For A Brilliant Reason

Joker in a bathroom

Warner Bros. has been moving forward with its live-action DC universe, recovering after the stumble of Justice League and Batman v Superman. The DCEU has stepped away from crossover heavy films, instead allowing each new release to stand on its own feet. Todd Phillips' Joker is one of those movies, breaking new ground by being disconnected to the greater shared universe. In fact, the movie's 1981 setting was chosen partly to make this distinction.

Todd Phillips has promised a comic book movie unlike anything we've seen with Joker. The movie has been getting some great buzz during its early screenings at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals. Phillips approached the story without adapting a story from the comics, and he recently explained the thought process behind Joker's setting in 1981 Gotham City. He said,

But the time for reason was to separate it quite frankly, from the DC universe. When I pitched to Warner Brothers, and handed the script in, to sort of make it clear, this isn't fucking with anything you have going on. This is like a separate universe. So much so, it takes place in the past, before everything else.

Well, that's one way to ensure your movie has nothing to do with the rest of the DC Extended Universe. By having Joker pre-date the timeline as we know it, he can ensure that moviegoers are able to enjoy the capsulated story, free of concern about crossovers and serialized storytelling.

Todd Phillips' comments at a recent Q&A attended by our own Events Editor Eric Eisenberg may surprise moviegoers for its simplicity. The filmmaker found a simple way to ensure his movie was kept separate from the DC shared universe, which already has another form of the fan favorite villain. So when Joker was announced, fans wondered how/if the movie would be connected to the Jared Leto version of the character we met in Suicide Squad.

But Phillips has always maintained that his Joker movie wasn't connected to the DCEU. There will be no crossovers with Robert Pattinson's upcoming version of Batman, despite the movies coming out in quick succession. After all, Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck would have to age quite a bit if that character pairing were to happen.

Related: Joker Has Screened: Early Reactions Say Joaquin Phoenix Deserves Oscar For This 'Masterpiece'

Besides, Todd Phillips recently clarified rumors about a Joker sequel, shutting down reports about that possibility. So the movie will seemingly stand on its own, in a refreshing departure from serialized storytelling and shared universes. There has been a ton of buzz surrounding the upcoming psychological origin story, including some early talks about Oscar attention.

While it's still super early, the buzz around Joker indicates that Joaquin Phoenix might be getting some nominations for the upcoming Awards Season. Phoenix is known for commitment to his roles, and he lost a whopping 52 pounds to play Arthur Fleck, with the 44 year-old actor admitting the physical transformation took its toll on his psyche.

You can judge for yourself when Joker gets its wide theatrical release on October 4th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.