The Joker is one of the most wildly-popular comic book antagonists in pop culture history. Nevertheless, many folks were surprised by the astonishing commercial success of Todd Phillips' gritty re-imagining. The R-rated character drama grossed over a billion dollars worldwide and secured 11 Oscar nominations — ultimately taking home two trophies, one of which went to Joaquin Phoenix's mesmerizing performance.
After earning a great deal of notice and a decent bit of controversy to boot, Joker became an extraordinary hit — even despite divisive reviews. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable sequel talk came into play. While Phoenix and Phillips envisioned their movie as a standalone story, that hasn't stopped sequels from happening before. Indeed, there's reported interest from Warner Bros. to make a follow-up, but that also raises some queries. Here are eight serious questions we have about Joker 2.
Is Joker 2 Actually Happening And When?
Admittedly, if we do get Joker 2, it'll take a while. Beyond the fact that all movie productions are suspended in the midst of a global pandemic, the sequel is still not officially greenlit. It's not clear yet if the movie is happening. While there were initial reports that claimed Joker 2 was on the way, they were apparently exaggerated. But Phillips admits that he discussed the idea with WB and considered it a possibility. If that's the case, we might be getting a follow-up, but it'll be a hot minute before it's released. It could be another five or more years, at least, and that's only if all the parties involved agree to pursue it. Nevertheless, it's not impossible. But if it happens, it won't be overnight.
Will Todd Phillips Be Primarily Involved Or Simply Overseeing The Project?
While Todd Phillips was initially reluctant to make a sequel to Joker, he has since softened his tone and he's sounded more open to the prospect. Reports suggested that Phillips met with Warner Bros. with the possibility of making a Joker sequel or producing other standalone DC movies under DC Black's label. But that doesn't guarantee Phillips will jump on-board the potential sequel, let alone write or direct. If Joker 2 is officially greenlit, it'll likely be after Phillips agrees to sign the dotted line. WB is traditionally a filmmaker-first studio, and they'll probably want Phillips in their corner before they push this into production. But it's possible that if Joker 2 does come to be, Phillips might only assume a producer role. Phillips' involvement is no guarantee at this point.
Would Joker 2 Be An Anthology Or A Direct Sequel To Joker?
With so few details currently in place for this speculated sequel, nothing is certain. While Joker 2 is the placeholder title that's thrown around, it's highly possible that this continuation will adopt a different title altogether — especially if the focus is not what people assume. Indeed, there's a chance this potential sequel might not be a direct sequel at all. Rather, it could be the next installment in a cinematic anthology series, following a new DC character — or another version of this DC character — from at least some of the same filmmakers. Indeed, if this style worked out for shows like FX's American Horror Story or Fargo, which take place in the same stylized universe but follow different characters and different timelines, this format could easily be transitioned onto the silver screen.
Indeed, this idea could allow Todd Phillips and his team to respect the standalone conceit of his original concept while also expanding upon his vision of a dark, more mature Gotham by focusing on other memorable or frightening characters.
It'll be a challenge to recreate this same success, but it could be a possibility if Phillips doesn't want to taint his Oscar-winning movie with a sequel that might jeopardize what people found so refreshing about his 2019 movie. It could provide another bold, striking take in the same vein as Joker for another DC character. Perhaps someone like Lex Luther, who Joaquin Phoenix was once rumored to play. This liberating wiggle room could allow for more creativity, and it could make Phillips feel less constricted by the limitations of a franchise and more willing to make more standalone, non-franchise driven movies under DC's new branch of moodier, R-rated movies.
Will Joker 2 Have An Antagonistic Figure Besides The Joker?
By the end of Joker, Arthur Fleck fully adopted his Clown Prince of Crime persona. He's wearing the make-up. He embraced his laugh. Arthur is gone now; The Joker is running wild. By that extension, Arthur has completely accepted the villainous lifestyle, opting to indulge in his dark tendencies and fantasies, showcasing little-to-no remorse, empathy, or pity for others in his trail of destruction. By any reasonable measure, Fleck is now a villainous character — if certainly a troubled one given a tragic backstory. With that in mind, will The Joker remain the primary villain in this sequel, or will we be introduced to an antagonist even more wicked and destructive than our central character? With a villain as our lead character, it's certainly hard to say.
Will Other DC Characters/Villains Appear Throughout The Movie?
With the exception of our title character and the Wayne family, most of the characters seen throughout Joker were either invented for the movie or weren't major DC characters. The focus of Joker is intently on our memorable villain, portraying this famous comic book character in a grittier, more grounded way. But with the possibility of a sequel on the horizon, and the movie's outstanding box office success (notably compared to its humble budget), Joker 2 could introduce other DC characters — possibly other villains — into the fold, particularly with more money to play with. The possibility of seeing, say, goofier Batman bad guys like The Riddler and The Penguin are unlikely, but we might be introduced to another version of Harley Quinn, for instance, or maybe Todd Phillips' interpretations of Harvey Dent and/or Catwoman. It's not out-of-the-question.
Notably with Arthur Fleck seen in an asylum at the end of Joker, even though he's trying to escape, it's possible we'll be introduced to a few other nutty DC characters confined under the same roof as The Joker. The avenue is clearly there. Whether or not the filmmakers take it is left unclear.
Will The Joker Fight Batman/Bruce Wayne In Joker 2?
We don't spend a lot of time with Bruce Wayne in Joker. There's a good reason why. The future vigilante is merely a boy here, living in his mansion while his father is a successful businessman with aspirations of becoming the Mayor of Gotham. There is one memorable scene where Arthur Fleck interacts with the future Batman in front of a locked gate, and there's (obviously) the scene where our young Bruce watches his doomed parents be slain before him. Otherwise, Bruce Wayne factors in very rarely in Joker. His presence feels mostly like studio pressure. "How can you have a Joker movie without Batman?," you can hear them saying. But will that change with Joker 2? Will Batman remain a side character during the next chapter of Fleck's story, or will we see him become The Dark Knight?
Without a proper idea of when Joker 2 takes place following the original's finale, it's hard to know how old Bruce Wayne will be during the events of this proposed sequel. He might still be a kid. He could be a teenager. Or he could be a young adult, on the cusp of assuming his alternate identity. It's unknown if this sequel will play with the timeline. The studio might push for a younger Batman, for instance. Or we might see Bruce Wayne and Arthur Fleck duke it out even before Bruce becomes the Caped Crusader — further cementing their arch rivalry. We might not necessarily get a full-out brawl between these two comic book characters, but we might see what further inspires their ongoing strife — possibly leading up to a more climatic, action-friendly trilogy capper. But we're jumping ahead a bit.
Will Joker 2 Lead To A Trilogy (Or Conclude The Story)?
As we've noted by now, Todd Phillips' Joker wasn't envisioned to be a franchise starter. Unlike several other tentpole comic book-based blockbusters nowadays, DC-related or otherwise, this Oscar-winning character study was meant to be a smaller, singular story. It wasn't meant to connect to any cinematic universes. There weren't any plans conceived from the onset of making it a continued narrative. But if the idea of a sequel is being proposed, the cards shift a bit. If this sequel is meant to elongate the narrative and expand its story, will it also serve as a standalone sequel, or is it expected to put the pieces in place for a third (possibly final) movie, thus building a trilogy? Certainly, based on its billion-dollar success, WB probably wants a trilogy. But is that narratively feasible?
As suggested before, the problem here is that The Joker is far from your typical protagonist. The movie was an examination into what turns an unsettled man into a psychopath. It's a filmmaker's interpretation of the origin story of one of our most notorious villains. By expanding these origins into a potential second or third movie, the filmmakers are at high risk of losing what made Joker effective to so many viewers and what compelled our lead actor to make the movie in the first place — not to mention the potential danger of making The Joker someone the audience is expected to root for. It's a tricky balance, building on the narrative while also recognizing why he's such a terrifying menace, but it's not impossible. But it'll prove to be an interesting challenge for all members involved, and it'll be intriguing to see what their sequel intentions will be. Also worth noting: Joaquin Phoenix has never made a sequel.
Where Would Joker 2 Pick Up And Did The Events Of The First Movie Actually Happen?
As we alluded to earlier, we don't know when Joker 2 might take place. We don't know if it'll immediately follow the events of the original, or if there will be a sizable time-jump. Also, we don't know what Gotham looks like now. We'll presumably be seeing the city in the midst of criminal anarchy; Gotham is rotten with crime sprees and Batman hasn't assumed his identity yet. There were riots on the streets, people putting on clown masks, and a desire to take down authority figures and the rich. Murray Franklin was murdered on-air. Thomas Wayne and his wife were killed in cold blood. The Joker has inspired city-wide havoc. Or did he? There's reason to believe the final few scenes — possibly the whole second half — didn't happen.
There is an argument to be made that the ending of Joker was all a figment of Arthur Fleck's warped imagination — the delusions of a psychotic man without his medication or therapy who cracks himself up. He was already prone to fantasies throughout Joker. He might've been in his apartment or the hospital this whole time, believing himself to be elsewhere, causing havoc on Gotham. Certainly, that might explain why everything happened in such rapid-fire succession in the second half. But this Catcher in the Rye-esque fan theory only works if the movie itself is, indeed, a solo movie. If a sequel is made, this theory would need be addressed — or it would automatically cancel it out. One wonders, then, if this proposed sequel will bring up this idea at all, or if the filmmakers will bypass it to tell whatever story they wish to tell.
Do you think Joker 2 will actually happen? What questions do you have about this proposed sequel? Let us know in the comment section.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.