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Will the Joker fix the DC and Warner Bros. comic book movies?

Warner Bros. and DC just cannot seem to get their cinematic universe into gear. Marvel Studios just keeps on building strong connections and fun films. Whereas DC has had Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League which were all rather messy. Wonder Woman is the bright spark in their arsenal, but even that suffered in the final third of the film. They have got Aquaman and Shazam! in the can, but the future of the shared cinematic universe is all up in the air. While gambling online is the way to go for some, it seems Warner Bros. is going all in with a new film, Joker, which looks at the origin of the Clown Prince of Crime.

A quick look back is needed to see how we got here. First, we had Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. They redefinied for many what a comic book hero could be. Dark, gritty and as realistic as possible they did do great things (although those of us who read comics know there are many stories like them over the years). Then came Zack Snyder with Man of Steel and the other. He seemed too involved with what looked cool rather than what worked. His films were simply a series of moments made for a trailer, which didn’t add up to a satisfying story and he never really grasped how to bring the characters from the page to the big screen.

Aquaman and Shazam! look like fun, but it remains to be seen whether they will work. There is also a Birds of Prey movie in the works with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn joining up with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress and Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary. Two heroes and a villain! Why they did not base this film on Gotham City Sirens which saw Quinn join up with Catwoman and Poison Ivy is beyond me and another example of Warner Bros. not seeming to understand the comic books.

Do we need a Joker origin story? Not really, but let’s take a closer look at what is planned.

The Todd Phillips’ (The Hangover) directed film will follow Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) who will eventually become The Joker. It will be set in the 1990s and it seems to be roughly similar to the basic origin in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. It has been described along the lines of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and the basic plot sounds similar to Scorsese’s The King of Comedy. Both of those films starred Robert De Niro who is also in Joker. He is playing a radio DJ or talk show host who helps push Fleck into becoming the Joker.

The cast also includes Zazie Beetz who did great things in Donald Glover’s Atlanta, and in Deadpool 2.

So Joker has a great cast and is riffing on some classic Scorsese movies. While I was initially not bothered by it at all, it is gradually building interest. That cast is what keeps bringing me back and it could go to some dark places. It could be just what DC and Warner Bros. need.

It also has no link to Jared Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad so it does seem like it will be a standalone movie. If it proves a success then the studio may do a soft reboot using Joker as the basis. The fact Wonder Woman 1984 is set closer to Joker could also bring that into line.

However, even if it stays a standalone film, Warner Bros. could still fix all their problems, and be a bit different from Marvel, by turning everything into a Cinematic Multiverse! DC comics have long had multiple universes, most recently with The New 52. If they did this then all of their DC movies could be part of the shared universe and then (if the film rights allow it) have them all interact for a Crisis on Infinite Earth type thing.

Just imagine (yes, I know it will probably never happen) if Brandon Routh’s older Superman turned up to speak to Ezra Miller’s Flash saying there is something coming that will destroy the Multiverse. Throw in Michael Keaton’s as Kingdom Come Batman, all of The CW TV shows (which have been using the Multiverse for a while), get Bale’s Batman back, Jared Leto’s Joker teams up with Joaquin, and so on and so forth. That way they could have new versions of the various characters, as with Joker and it would all fit in.

It makes so much sense and means they could have multiple versions of the many different characters – some family friendly, others soaked in blood and gore. Get Vampire Batman going. Do it all. It could be amazing.

But let’s wait and see what the Joker movie is like first.

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