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The Joker Shouldn't Have an Origin Movie

The Joker in the Killing JokeThe-Joker-in-The-Killing-Joke

The Killing Joke had a lasting effect on DC continuity (which Moore would come to publicly regret) when editors decided to fold the plot-detail of Barbara Gordon being partially-paralyzed by Joker's attack into the official Batman storyline going forward. But by contrast, Moore's Joker origin was almost immediately downplayed as either one of many possible backstories that had been eluded to throughout the character's history or, at least, as a series of events that Joker remembers very differently from whatever the reality is. Since then, new possible-origins have positioned him as everything from an immortal demonic entity to an abused child to a common gangster gone too far - and that's not including widely-popular "fan theories" that imagine (among other things) that The Joker's madness might stem from him secretly being one of the handful of DC characters who are consciously aware that they are fictional beings living in a comic book.

To put it mildly: If 75+ years of comics haven't been able to settle on a satisfactory explanation for the why, who, and how of The Joker... how can any one movie hope to do so? Indeed, one of the major problems with previous attempts would seem to be that any additional humanity (even in the abstract) has served to diminish the character's power. The less we know about The Joker (is he even human? Can he die?) the easier it is to "buy into" the idea that a villain with no special powers whose "gear" is usually very basic - or elaborate-for-humor's-sake - as the ultimate nemesis of the nigh-unstoppable, heavily-armed Batman.

Jared Leto as the Joker in Suicide Squad

And while, yes, the Scorsese/Philips Joker project (which, for the record, is set to be a crime film set in the 1980s) is being planned as part of a separately-labeled slate of standalone DC films set outside the continuity of the main DCEU (a'la the "Elseworlds" publishing imprint on the comics side) and in fact may not even feature a Batman. It's impossible to imagine audiences bothering to make that kind of a distinction in a broader pop-cultural sense, though. Even if this isn't "the" DCEU Joker, it will inevitably be associated and/or compared by the public at large - and if it turns out to be the one fans prefer (or just the one that sells more tickets), how long until the movement to officially integrate him into the "main roster" begins?

In the end, even the skeptical would be hard-pressed to not be at least a little bit curious about Scorsese and Philips delivering a grittier, more reality-adjacent take on the concept of "themed" super-criminals. But when it comes to The Joker, maybe less is still more regardless of how much talent you put behind it. One thing that the "cinematic universe" age of genre filmmaking has made increasingly clear is that, while continuity can be interesting and even useful, few things can spoil the fun of an offbeat concept like trying to over-explain it. The Joker is one of the last things in the genre that can just show up and "work" without needing any tedious, diminishing buildup - why give that up?

Opposing View: Why the Joker Origin Movie Could Be Great

Key Release Dates
  • Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
  • Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
  • Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
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