With the announcement of an all new origin story film for the iconic DC Comics character of the Joker which will exist in its own cinematic world, Warner Bros. has the opportunity to do something it never has before: make an R-rated live-action DC Comics film.
In a world where R-rated super hero films are proving to in demand at the box office, Warner Bros. might just follow the lead of Deadpool and Logan in allowing their film to take creative freedoms and liberties which would be restricted to by a PG-13 rating.
In fact, offering Batman's biggest nemesis the R-rating at the movies might be enough of a hook to reinvigorate fan interest in the character after Jared Leto's re-imagining of the character in Suicide Squad was met by divisive opinions -- some fans loving the more modern take with others lamenting over its differences by comparison to both Heath Ledger's Dark Knight performance and many citing physical deviations from comics.
While there is nothing concrete regarding the Joker's origin story movie outside of the creative team, its casting of a new actor for the role, and its 80's setting, the likelihood of an R-rating should not be overlooked.
With Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. backed away from the original idea for the film late in its production.
In the wake of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being panned by critics, Warner Bros. discovered the desired tone of films to be more in the vein of Deadpool -- which released a month prior -- than the dark approach offered by the Affleck versus Cavill brawler.
Earlier, Warner Bros. screened a Suicide Squad trailer at San Diego Comic Con in 2015 which was loaded with the film's most "fun" parts at the time. The reaction to the trailer was thrilling. Fans took to social media to share their excitement and it appeared the film would be a hit but, apparently, all of the "fun" parts of the film were in that trailer.
Bring on the re-shoots and Suicide Squad goes from a movie which was possibly bordering an R-rating and is locked into a PG-13 film with jokes sprinkled throughout its final cut. Many compared the tone, musical choices, and jokes to Marvel's comedic adventure film Guardians of the Galaxy. The best parts of Suicide Squad, however, would turn out to be the gritty and character driven elements.
It's hard to imagine fans rooting for the Suicide Squad sequel to retain a PG-13 rating when they have been exposed to how much well R-rated super hero films can be done. If the same lesson is to be applied to the Joker movie, Martin Scorsese might be producing an R-rated take on the character.
Speaking of Scorsese, take at look at his resume. His best titles fall under an R-rating.
To top it off, if the studio is aiming to keep the DC Extended Universe (which will house the iconic DC Comics characters and allow for crossovers and the proper build-up to titles like Flashpoint) rated PG-13 and family friendly, the Joker origin story offers the opportunity to push the boundaries in separate isolated, standalone universes which won't affect the characters portrayed by Leto, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Ben Affleck, and so on.
Warner Bros. animation division, Warner Bros. Animation, has shown the studio is not afraid of R-rated DC Comics properties.
Though Batman: The Killing Joke was a forgettable adaptation of the unforgettable comic book series by the same title, the investment in at least experimenting with the idea of R-rated Joker titles was launched. Ahead of the reviews, fan excitement reached new heights for The Killing Joke, which earned a soft theatrical release around the country.
The criticisms for The Killing Joke were not surrounding the R-rated content but the changes to Batman and Batgirl's relationship and the overall portrayal of the latter. The film sits at 45% on RottenTomatoes, meaning almost half the critics who reviewed the film offered positive opinions, and the title grossed $3.8 million in the U.S. and Canada and became the largest release in Fathom Events' history for its opening night screenings.
Outside of Warner Bros., one studio has seen great success with R-rated films: 20th Century Fox.
Two of 20th Century Fox's last three X-Men-centric titles were R-rated. The same two out of the three were critical and financial successes while the PG-13 rated title X-Men: Apocalypse managed to eclipse half a million dollars at the worldwide box office, sitting behind Logan's R-rated run to $616 million worldwide and Deadpool's over $783 million R-rated worldwide haul.
While Deadpool and Logan are drastically different films, they both ventured into territories other comic book movies steer clear of. Deadpool offered an abundance of laughs with adult-friendly humor and a heavy dose of violence while Logan used its freedom to tell an intimate, character-driven and often very violent film loaded with F-words and other inappropriate for PG-13 films. The elements culminated into not only high-quality, well-reviewed films but refreshing takes on the super hero genre.
With 20th Century Fox's guinea pigs in this R-rated comic book movie experiment have proven the audience will still come out if a film is rated "R", Warner Bros. might see an opportunity to follow suit with their standalone Joker movie.