Joker writer-director Todd Phillips says the movie doesn’t follow anything from the comic books, and he knows that will make people mad. Joaquin Phoenix is set to play the latest cinematic incarnation of the infamous Batman villain the Joker in Phillips’ upcoming film, but it's promised that this take on the character will be very different from previous versions.
For one thing, Phillips and Phoenix’s take on the Joker will be a full origin story, something that hasn’t been attempted on screen before (Tim Burton’s Batman did show how Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier became the Joker, but that was only a small part of the story). The film will also present a much more gritty and realistic take on the character, inspired by everything from Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy to the cop shows of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Early teases of the movie have given glimpses of how Phoenix will tackle his version of the iconic character, and indeed it does look very different from prior cinematic incarnations.
Now, in an interview with Empire magazine, Phillips has indicated that not only will his Joker be different from prior movie versions, it will also be very different from prior comic book versions. In fact, according to Phillips, he and Phoenix didn't just deviate from DC Comics’ Joker, they ignored the comic books entirely - and he's very aware of how this decision might negatively impact fans' perceptions of the movie. Phillips said:
“We didn’t follow anything from the comic-books, which people are gonna be mad about. We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from. That’s what was interesting to me. We’re not even doing Joker, but the story of becoming Joker. It’s about this man.”
Of course, as Phillips certainly knows, there is already a long history of fans getting upset at the way the Joker has been depicted on screen. Many fans did not like Nicholson’s comedic portrayal of the character in Burton’s otherwise brooding and dark Batman, and even more fans were dismayed by Jared Leto’s “gangsta” take on the Joker in Suicide Squad. The only movie version of the Joker to meet with near universal acclaim was the one offered by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, but of course fans only embraced Ledger’s portrayal after originally bashing Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. for casting the actor.
Having seen how passionate fans can get about the Joker, Phillips is clearly aware that he’s treading on dangerous ground by throwing out the comic books as source material and essentially rebuilding the character from the ground up. It remains to be seen if fans will ultimately embrace this new take on the iconic villain, or if they will be turned off by the way Phillips and Phoenix have deviated from established lore in Joker.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
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- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
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