With a Joker sequel potentially happening, there are quite a few things that need to happen in it. Joker 2 is reportedly happening, and it makes sense considering how successful Joker has been. Joker has broken multiple records, becoming not only the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time but the first R-rated title to make over $1 billion. Add to that the surprise critical acclaim of the film and its award-winning success at the Venice Film Festival (plus continuing Oscar buzz) and nobody would blame Warner Bros. for greenlighting Joker 2 now. Both Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix have expressed a willingness to sign onto a sequel too.
A big selling point for Joker was its one-off status, utterly separate from the confines and narrative entanglements of the DCEU and able to experiment more freely with a form and genre that many have begun to write off as endlessly derivative. Phillips was keen to emphasize that Joker was not a comic book movie and would thus not be tied to the expectations of that medium. Of course, that doesn’t mean the film is devoid of those DC beats. Thomas, Martha, and young Bruce Wayne are present and accounted for, and Bruce’s parents meet the same fate they always do in Batman canon. Ultimately, Arthur Fleck, following his moment of triumph on the burning streets of Gotham, ends up in Arkham Asylum.
On some level, it seems that, even with a risky project like this, Warner Bros. wanted to make sure they left some doors to open should the opportunity come to make more movies in Joker’s world. If they do want Joker 2, they have the means to pull it off, but there are things we would need and like to see a Joker sequel pull off.
Joker Needs To Fight Batman (Or Another Hero)
One of the most distinct elements of Joker’s story is its lack of a tangible villain. The Joker’s true nemesis is society and the ways that the elite rich have bled the trodden-down common people like himself dry. He is driven more by political issues on a large scale than any single menacing figure, even if he does zero in on both Thomas Wayne and Murray Franklin as his major targets. It’s an intriguing concept but a tough one to pull off more than once in the same narrative.
Here, Bruce Wayne is a kid and hardly ready to don the cape as the world’s greatest detective. Joker certainly sets up a dynamic between Arthur and Bruce that has rich storytelling potential: The rich kid from the upper echelons of privilege who saw his parents gunned down by the followers of a wannabe vigilante who may or may not be his half-brother. It’s a set-up that Warner Bros. and Phillips clearly have more ideas for, so bringing in Batman can allow for an old-fashioned battle of good versus evil that the pair so richly symbolize.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be Robert Pattinson’s Batman, although it seems possible those conversations have taken place at the studio already, and some fans really do want to see them share the screen. If this story wants to keep up with the ambiguity of Arthur being a Joker but not the Joker then why not bring that same unsureness to a masked vigilante seeking revenge on the villains of the city for his personal tragedy?
Make Joker Into A TRUE Villain
A lot of the critical arguments over Joker rested on whether or not the story was clear on the Joker’s status as a villain or if the film possibly romanticized his criminal plight in an unhealthy manner. Regardless of people's stances on the matter, it is true that the film itself is certainly deeply empathetic to Arthur’s plight and the choices that took him down the dark road to villainy. He’s not necessarily a big bad guy in the story as much as he is an inevitability of the crooked and selfish world Gotham has become. It’s an origin story, that’s what it’s supposed to do. For Joker 2, however, they need to take their feet off the breaks and make the Joker a full-on, true villain to the city at large.
Now that the Joker has been bolstered by the public’s support of the ideals they have projected onto him and caused riots in his image, viewers need to see what Gotham City looks like in this aftermath and how the criminal underworld has taken advantage of the unease. Have the Joker’s followers stood by him and allowed him into the new levels of power among the gangsters? Has he honed his skills and fully embraced his bad guy status for a new cause beyond a vague fight against the system? The underworld of Gotham has always been one of the most intriguing parts of Batman lore and Joker’s part in it has evolved in richly textured ways across the decades. There’s plenty of room for Phillips and company to add their own stamp.
Explore More Of Arthur's Time In Arkham
Joker ends with Arthur in Arkham Asylum, returning after spending an unspecified amount of time there. The movie is ambiguous about how much of the preceding story actually happened and how much is in Arthur’s head, although we can only assume that the sequel would confirm the former for various story reasons. Arkham is notoriously home to some of the most iconic and dangerous villains in DC lore, and if Warner Bros. is keen to continue Joker’s success with similarly themed films about other Batman villains, this would be an interesting way to set that up.
A more thorough examination of Arthur's mental health whilst in Arkham could also provide new layers to his character in a manner that is consistent with the first film. Phillips and Phoenix made a big deal of not giving a specific diagnosis to Arthur (something that many found problematic as a storytelling option and use of mental illness for dramatic purposes) but there's much to be discovered in this area of his growth. Let’s spend some time with him in treatment as Gotham continues to fall around him, in part inspired by his misdeeds, and how this further confirms Arthur/Joker’s desire to give into his own madness and evil.