Kevin Smith is weighing in on DC's bold (albeit controversial) choice to feature multiple film versions of The Joker at one time - suggesting Worlds of DC will bring WB's superhero movies in-line with comic books, a move that he believes will help the studio better compete with the MCU.
While some fans have been thrilled with the idea of different variations of core comic characters existing simultaneously on the big screen (the more the merrier), others believe the move is further evidence that WB doesn't have a clear vision for their film universe (throwing whatever will stick at the wall). The result? DC was developing as many as six different films that could include a Joker - with at least two different versions of the Clown Prince of Crime (currently Jared Leto and Joaquin Phoenix) confirmed. Understandably, that many different Joker projects were sure to raise a few eyebrows; however, for longtime fans of comics that inspired the character, multiple stories, variations, and interpretations were always a constant - and leaning into that precedent might actually give DC a leg-up on the mega-successful MCU.
Speaking with Variety at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, Smith made it clear that not only does he think fans should be excited (and grateful) that we live in a time where a Joker movie (much less multiple Joker movies) can be made, he also believes the variety and willingness to tell standalone stories without the burden of shared universe continuity and tonal parity could actually be an asset not a detriment to Warner Bros.
As Smith highlights here, while there might be a variety of Joker movie ideas circulating the development department at DC, those movies, currently, only center on the Leto and Phoenix Jokers - which will, without question, be very different interpretations. Casual moviegoers may wonder how the Joaquin Phoenix Joker fits into the shared universe storytelling of Suicide Squad but, if the origin movie is great on its own terms, any confusion over shared/standalone stories is a minor inconvenience, by comparison, to navigate.
After all, one of the biggest problems with the Snyder-era DC movies was the fandom's black and white response in embracing or rejecting these (non-traditional) versions of fan-favorite characters. That is to say, if a DC fan was put-off by Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor or Jared Leto's Joker, a heavy reliance on shared universe storytelling might actually be a liability - given that fans who wanted more traditional versions of the villains would be stuck with Snyder's picks for as long as the Justice League movie series was producing films.
Under the new movie multiverse plan, there's less pressure on any one actor or any one movie - especially the projects that want to experiment and take risks, since every movie isn't make-or-break for the interconnected canon. Case in point, some of the absolute best and most beloved (and most profitable) DC comic books have been weird tangents that would have been off-putting to casual audiences - but, without the pressure of fitting into a decade-long print run, delivered incredible standalone stories (such as The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, Red Son, Superman: Speeding Bullets).
Of course, audiences will have their preferences - something that we've already seen play out with big and small screen versions of The Flash (not to mention Superman) existing at the same time. A fan might prefer Grant Gustin over Ezra Miller but with different versions of the characters somewhere in the Worlds of DC, there's a greater chance viewers will get a Flash they really love - with the added benefit of seeing an alternate version trying something different. Not to mention, with the Arrowverse already experimenting with multiverse cross-overs, the idea of a DC film that features a team-up or fight between Joaquin Phoenix and Jared Leto's Jokers is especially enticing.
Conversely, there's no question that Marvel's shared universe formula has been a colossal hit - and it's understandable why DC was eager to try and form their own cinematic sandbox. Still, the MCU has struggled at times with shared universe chronology - and still does. Agents of SHIELD, especially, is at its weakest when it casually reference events in the Avengers storyline - and at its best when it has the freedom to explore standalone adventures (such as season 5's future-set arc or season 4's Ghost Rider detour). As the MCU evolves, and covers the cosmic corner of Marvel Comics, it'll be interesting to see if the studio truly begins to focus on more standalone stories (or micro shared-universes) of their own, disconnected from a prime narrative throughline - albeit with the possibility of bringing any character in for a crossover (only where it makes sense).
That's all to say, as comic book movies have settled in as the biggest films in the world, there's no reason to think studios need to rely entirely on shared universe storytelling. At the end of the day, moviegoers are going to buy tickets to good movies - and if a story is best told without connections to a shared universe, there's zero reason to force a square peg into a round hole (especially where it risks compromising both the movie at hand and the integrity of a larger universe). The Dark Knight did absolutely fine in theaters without a shared universe and while Marvel might have changed the game, DC has the opportunity to show there isn't one way to make a successful superhero movie franchise in Hollywood.
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- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019