If you have not already heard the news, last week, it was announced that a solo Joker origin movie is in the works. The film has Martin Scorsese as producer and will be directed and co-written by Todd Phillips. Phillips is best known for directing and writing THE HANGOVER series. The film is also set to take place in early 80s Gotham and will be reminiscent of Scorsese films like TAXI DRIVER and THE KING OF COMEDY.

READ: Here’s what is absolutely needed to make a GOOD Joker origin movie.

Most interestingly, the film will also take place in an entirely new continuity separate from the DCEU. This means there’s a myriad of possible Joker movies to make within the framework of Scorsese-esque 80s Gotham. So, here are five theories on what could happen:

THE GRITTIEST GANGSTER FLICK

Based on: JOKER (2008) by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo.

Joker Origin Movie

The graphic novel JOKER takes place in a grimier and more “realistic” version of the Batman-verse. It begins with small time crook Johnny Frost picking up the Joker from his latest stint in Arkham Asylum. This then leads to Frost becoming Joker’s henchman as Joker goes about rebuilding his criminal empire. Frost idolizes the Joker and sees working with him as an opportunity to finally become a high-status figure. Things do not end well for Frost.

How It Could Work

However, if Warner Bros. wants to make a grounded Joker movie inspired by Scorsese’s urban drama films, JOKER would be a good starting point. The comic’s setting has more to do with the ins and outs of Gotham’s criminal underground. It is a departure from the usual gimmicks and tights, and the characters, while still grotesque, are portrayed in a relatively realistic fashion.

For example, Killer Croc in the novel is a cannibal who hangs out in meat lockers. When it comes to his appearance, he looks like a bodybuilder with a dry skin problem rather than the literal lizard man we see in the comics. Though JOKER’s tone and setting would be ideal for a gritty Joker film, it is not an origin story. So what does it offer plot wise? Well, an exact adaptation is out of the question, but the general plot of a crazy clown establishing himself as a domineering crime lord could still potentially work.

Instead of being about the Joker’s past prior to his disfigurement, the movie could focus on how Gotham’s criminal underworld reacts when the Joker first appears. Like in the comic, Jonny Frost would still be the POV character. Frost would be an overly ambitious criminal who is initially impressed by Joker’s ability to intimidate others. Also, like in the comic, the more time he spends with the Joker, the more Frost realizes just how monstrous the clown prince of crime is.

Watching Frost’s perspective of the Joker change as the Joker goes about establishing himself makes for a tense crime thriller; a thriller that would stay true to the Joker’s terrifyingly incomprehensible nature. It would develop his character and show how he initially rose through the ranks of Gotham’s criminal underbelly. That would result in an intriguing “origin” story.

THE CLASSIC

Based On: BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE (1988) by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

Joker Origin Movie

The plot of THE KILLING JOKE involves Batman attempting to stop the Joker from carrying out his plan to systematically drive Commissioner Gordon insane. The Joker’s motivation behind this is to prove that a sane man could become as crazy as he is just after “one bad day.” The comic is interspersed with flashbacks to the “one bad day” that caused the Joker to go insane. They show how a struggling soon-to-be family man to the mass murdering psychopath we all know and love. As far as Joker origin stories go, this is the gold standard.

READ: For more on THE KILLING JOKE, check out this retrospective on it!

How It Could Work

THE KILLING JOKE came out in 1988. Therefore, it would not be difficult to adapt the story so that it takes place in 80s Gotham. The main issue with making THE KILLING JOKE into a film is that it is relatively short. That could be an issue if you are trying to make a feature length film.

Take, for instance, the animated adaptation of THE KILLING JOKE that came out last year. In an attempt to “flesh out” the story, the makers of the film decided to add a thirty-minute prologue. In this prologue, Batman and Batgirl enter a sexual relationship. This was…controversial, to say the least.

Luckily for the Joker Origin Movie team, if they do adapt THE KILLING JOKE, they do not have to look far when it comes to stretching out the story. As I said earlier, the project is a Joker origin film influenced by Scorsese 80s films. Thus, to pad things out, they would just have to add scenes establishing the world of Scorsese-esque 80s Gotham. Then put in some more details about the Joker’s backstory.

Granted, if mishandled, these additions could derail the pacing of the film. It could also make it seem as if the writers are trying too hard to make the Joker sympathetic. But if done right, said additions would result in an amazingly atmospheric rendition of THE KILLING JOKE that would give the story the respect it deserves.

THE FIRST MEETING

Based On: BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (2005) by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke. THE MAN WHO LAUGHS is based on BATMAN #1 (1940) by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

Joker Origin Movie

Technically, the first time Batman met the Joker was when the Joker was dressed as the Red Hood and ended up falling in a vat of chemicals. So what these comics are really about are Batman and Joker’s first meeting as Batman and the Joker.

READ: Speaking of showdowns between Batman and the Joker, here are the five best Batman/Joker clashes!

There are some differences, but the general plot of the two comics revolves around the Joker making his “public debut” through a series of hijacked broadcasts. In each broadcast, the Joker announces that he is going to kill a high-status public figure. When those folks start dying off with chemically induced grins on their face, Batman and company step in to stop him.

How It Could Work

On the surface, this story seems like a poor choice for a solo Joker origin movie. It takes place from Batman’s perspective. While it is his first meeting with the Joker, the general plotline does come off a typical supervillain caper scenario.

However, this story is all about the first time the Joker publicly acted as the Joker. This gets interesting if you flip the perspective. From Batman’s point of view, the Joker is the newest villain of the week. However, from the Joker’s point of view, this is the point where he truly establishes himself.

Something must have happened in between Joker falling into the chemical vat and Joker being a purple tux wearing criminal mastermind. I have not seen anything yet that addresses what went down in that period. This is the story that would be told if THE MAN WHO LAUGHS was viewed through the Joker’s perspective. It may not explain everything about who he was before he became the Joker, but it would be a definitive account of he got there.

THE LIVE ACTION CARTOON

Based On: THE JOKER #1-9 (1975-76) by Dennis O’Neil, Dick Giordano, and Irv Novick.

Joker Origin Movie

Believe it or not, the Joker did have his own short lived series in the 70s called THE JOKER. It consisted of the Joker trying and failing to pull off capers. These usually involved other famous DC comics characters.

How It Could Work

Hear me out. According to Deadline, THE KING OF COMEDY was named as one of the Scorsese films that would be an influence on the Joker movie. The movie is also going to be written and directed by Todd Phillips, who is best known for THE HANGOVER trilogy.

With that in mind, is it not possible that the Joker origin movie could be a…comedy?

Considering the news that the Joker origin film is going to be influenced by Scorsese’s gritty urban drama films, I know this seems unlikely. But as said earlier, Scorsese film THE KING OF COMEDY was named as an influence. While the film does take place in New York during its “rotten apple” era, it is primarily a comedy, albeit a very dark and bleak one.

READ: Want more on THE KING OF COMEDY? Here’s an article on what that film and THE NEON DEMON says about fame!

I brought up the short-lived 70s Joker series because it is a collection of misadventures where the Joker tries and fails to commit crimes. A series of seemingly random adventures seems like the type of plot a Joker comedy would have… I see no reason why taking place in gritty 80s Gotham would get in the way of that.

Since it is an origin movie, these adventures could revolve around the Joker as he grows up. It could even revolve around him trying to figure out his elusive past. Given Scorsese’s influence, the humor would be a lot darker than the 70s comic series, but the character is called the Joker after all. Admittedly, the writers and the fans seem to be expecting a serious Joker movie rather than a comedic one… However, it is a possibility.

THE UNEXPECTED HERO?

(Loosely) Based On: BATMAN: I, JOKER (1998) by Bob Hall.

Joker Origin Movie

I, JOKER is DC Elseworlds comic about a dystopian version of Gotham. A Gotham in the future that worships Batman as a religious figure. That said worship involves a ritualistic event known as “The Night of Blood.”

That event is where prisoners of the state are brainwashed and surgically modified to look like Batman villains. They are then hunted down by people dressed as Batman. If those people succeed, they get the opportunity to defeat “The Bruce,” the head Batman cult priest, and claim his title for themselves. Things get tricky though when the Joker in this situation breaks free of his brainwashing and resolves to put an end to the dystopia once and for all.

How It Could Work

What would be way off the mark is if they were to have the solo Joker film to take place in a cyberpunk dystopia where a Batman cult is the bad guys. However, BATMAN: I, JOKER does represent a possible approach the movie could take which might be more likely than you think. What if the Joker movie actually has the Joker be the hero?

Now, that premise in itself could be interpreted in a number of ways. On the one hand, you could do a twisted parody of superhero films where the Joker’s criminal actions are seen as “heroic.” On the contrary, you could have the Joker be a genuine gritty anti-hero whose goal is to fight evil with evil. Perhaps the Joker could even be a sympathetic victim lashing out against an unfair world.

READ: If you think a Joker solo movie is nuts, did you know that Marvel greenlit a Dr. Doom movie? Check out this article to learn why Dr. Doom deserves his own film!

This specific “theory” has less to do with specifics and more to do with the possibility of portraying the Joker in a mainly sympathetic and heroic light. Recently a rumor came out about the film claiming that its version of the Joker would be a bully victim with a congenital disability.

This info is coming from someone who is supposedly friends with Todd Phillips’ agent. It has yet to be confirmed by any official sources affiliated with the film. If it is true, then that is a sign that the Joker film is headed towards making the character more sympathetic.

Taking the character in this direction is a pretty risky move. But it is not hard to imagine that mainstream Hollywood producers would feel antsy about making a big budget film without a likable lead. Thus, it is plausible that a “likable” version of the Joker will be onscreen.

General Thoughts: The Joker Origin Movie

Obviously, I did not cover all the possibilities for how the Joker movie could turn out. To be honest, I do not even know if doing a solo Joker origin movie is a viable idea. However, with these five theories, I have cast a wide enough net so that some of the elements I mentioned will hopefully appear in the upcoming film.

So, what do you think? What are your theories for the upcoming Joker film, and how do they compare to mine? If you feel strongly about that, make sure to leave a comment below.

One Comment

  1. […] new JOKER film has had a variety of thoughts attached to it. Some are excited about it, others are indifferent, and others still think it’s a good idea […]

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