Anghus Houvouras on the news that Warner Bros. is working on a Joker origin movie…
There are few things in life that i can say are an absolute certainty. I know that 20th Century Fox will never make a good Fantastic Four movie. I know that the Universal Monsters Dark Universe might be the worst attempt at capitalizing on the Marvel movie model in the history of modern cinema. I know to never start a land war with China.
And I know that the Joker doesn’t need an origin story.
Is this even up for debate? After hearing Warner Bros. and DC were pushing a Joker solo movie with Martin Scorsese producing and Todd Phillips directing and co-writing the screenplay, I was momentarily intrigued. After Jared Leto’s terrible portrayal of the Crown Prince of Crime in Suicide Squad, I was hoping the studio was going to take a few years and let us all collectively forget what David Ayer did to the character after dragging him through Hot Topic.
And yet, here we are looking at a Joker solo movie with some pretty interesting names attached. Certainly a name like Scorsese lends itself to the credibility of the project. Then again, I’ve seen Steven Spielberg’s name attached to a lot of garbage over the years as an ‘Executive Producer’. The Transformers movies and the TV Show Smash immediately spring to mind.
But it wouldn’t matter what creative voices were behind the project. This movie doesn’t need to ever exist. What’s that, Anghus? You think you know better than all the executives and creative types over at Warner Bros.? You believe that you can definitively state that the Joker doesn’t need an origin story?
I do. And I’ll answer your questions with a question: Do you know how I got these scars?
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight remains the high bar for comic book adaptations. It feels forced to even waste words describing the brilliant, tragic perfection of Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker. Throughout the film the Joker would return to this question over and over again, telling a perpetually changing narrative about the origin of his facial malformation. It’s a brilliant bit of character work in the writing and absolutely mind-blowing in its delivery.
Nolan tells us everything we need to know about The Joker in The Dark Knight. He feels connected to Batman at a molecular level. Deviating from the comics, the Joker’s origins are irrelevant because to the character and the audience, it feels like he didn’t exist until he discovered Batman. There may never be a better example of two characters so perfectly intertwined, destined to do this destructive dance until one, or both of them ceases to be.
I’m trying to picture what a Joker origin story would look like. Does it begin at childhood? Does it start with his time as a petty criminal? In this version of the character does Batman still end up being responsible for his transformation?
The answer continues to be: ‘It doesn’t matter’.
This movie doesn’t need to happen. We’ve already been gifted with a perfect rendition of the character and origin stories traditionally suck ass. As Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger have proven, where the character came from is not nearly as interesting as where he’s going.