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Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Movie is the Next Evolution of Superhero Cinema

As Joaquin Phoenix is confirmed to be the new Joker in a DCEU spin-off, Joker, set to take place outside the DCEU, the superhero movie genre is about to see a new type of comic book movie that takes a bold new step forward for the genre.

After months of speculation, it was finally confirmed that Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix will be playing the Joker in Warner Bros. and DC’s planned spin-off origin story focusing on Batman’s greatest adversary. Todd Phillips of The Hangover trilogy will direct, and while rumors suggest the previously attached Martin Scorsese will no longer serve as producer, the film looks set to be a darker, more experimental approach to the superhero genre. Little is known about the project beyond gossip and conjecture – it is thought that the story will receive inspiration from a variety of sources, including Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, with a story that takes place in the 1980s. Fan response to the project has been mixed, with some feeling that Jared Leto has not been given a fair shot at establishing himself as the DCEU canon Joker. Others have questioned the necessity of an origin story for the character, but overall, the casting of Phoenix has been very popular.

Related: Joker Origin Movie: Every Update You Need To Know

While DC fans wait for more news, conversations continue over what this film means not only for the DCEU but the ever-burgeoning superhero genre. Joker will be the first official spin-off film from the established DCEU. It will also be part of a new offshoot for the studio, titled either DC Black or DC Dark, which will focus on telling more adult-oriented takes on the canon. With a $55 million budget and much-promised R-rating, the Joker film will be a notable contrast from the all but accepted rules of modern superhero blockbuster film-making: Big budgets, PG-13 ratings, fun for all the family. There are exceptions, such as the wildly successful Logan and Deadpool films, but both DC and Marvel have heavily stuck to that familiar formula since superheroes became the structural foundations of modern Hollywood. It’s a system fans have gotten used to, which may be in part why this Joker film has raised so many eyebrows, even though it could be the next big evolution of the genre.

The Joker Origin Movie Is Something Totally New

Heath Ledger as The Joker and Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight

Trying to adhere to the expanded universe formula of blockbuster film-making hasn’t been the most efficient or successful move for Warner Bros. and DC. While Marvel’s wildly ambitious plan has reaped many rewards, DC’s attempt to replicate it in a quicker fashion struggled to excite the audiences needed to help the films gain a profit. While the DCEU seems to be on safer tracks now, with positive buzz around upcoming projects like Wonder Woman 1984, Aquaman and Shazam!, it certainly doesn’t hurt to take a different path at the same time. Indeed, it could help establish the next phase of the genre for all of Hollywood.

Related: Theory: JOKER Origin Movie Based On 'Man Who Laughs'

The Joker film won’t connect to the wider DCEU, and the chances are it won’t even feature the character’s greatest nemesis. While this has been a topic of contention for some fans, it’s also something genuinely new and unexpected for this era of the superhero film. Sony is trying something similar with Venom, but that film is still more traditional in its approach and scale. It’s clearly trying to fit in with what Sony has already done with its Spider-Man films, by having a big budget, major effects work, and keeping it in canon. DC isn’t attempting that with this Joker film. It will be its own thing, a one and done drama utterly unconcerned with tying everything into a bigger picture. In an era where every blockbuster costs 9-figures and has to be part of an intricate universe, there’s something refreshing and necessary about this approach.

Page 2 of 2: The Comic Book Genre Needs to Change

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Key Release Dates
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
  • Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
Laura Prepon as Donna and Topher Grace as Eric in That 70s Show
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