DC Films is kicking of a line of standalone movies that are intended to expand the creative potential of DC Comics movies, with bold, creator-driven projects. The first of these films will be a Joker Origin Movie from producer Martin Scorsese and writer/director Todd Phillips (The Hangover), and the subject matter of the film has fans concerned.
In weighing the pros and cons of a Joker origin story, one of the biggest "cons" that stands out is the fact that The Joker is such a powerful character because of the fact that he's mysterious. The lack of an official backstory leaves The Joker looking more like a force of a chaos, rather than an actual human being - a fact that The Dark Knight used to great advantage.
However, that's not to say that The Joker can't be given an intriguing backstory; indeed, famous Batman storylines like The Killing Joke have transformed Joker's origin into a powerful and tragic tale of woe. With its status as a standalone that has wide open creative freedom, there's room for this Joker origin movie to do the same.
Here's How DC Can Do A Joker Origin Movie Right:
The first thing to do with this Joker origin movie is nail down a proper narrative approach, and for our part we think it should be a non-linear tale that gets told by questionable narrator.
The Dark Knight flirted with this idea when it had Heath Ledger's Joker repeatedly recounting his origin story to victims, each one different, and none of them reliable. Meanwhile, some of cinema's greatest crime films (like The Usual Suspects and Memento) have used the idea of an unreliable narrator to throw big twists into their stories, that viewers never see coming.
A Joker origin film that was being told by Joker himself would do well to reflect the character's fractured psyche and view of events. Better yet, getting one or several versions of his origin that viewers can't ultimately be sure of (meaning they don't really learn any "truth" at all) would be a joke that makes the movie fit the character even better.
No matter twisted or convoluted (or outright false) the narrative approach to the film is, what needs to be crystal clear are the character arc and themes that actually make the film worth the viewing experience.
In other words: no matter what the details of the Joker's origin story are, this film will need to demonstrate who the character used to be, and why he ultimately settles on the persona and modus operandi of The Joker.
This is going to be the biggest challenge, in general, that The Joker origin movie has to rise to - as it's a challenge that even DC Comics hasn't managed to rise to (a least not in official canon). The "One Bad Day" approach could definitely work, provided the movie packs enough craziness and violence into one truly f-ed up day of crime, that drives The Joker forever crazy.
Humor is literally part of The Joker's core composition, but as fans know, Joker doesn't just go for the usual laughs, and his origin story shouldn't, either.
Obviously going from a real-world existence to a fantastical figure like The Joker is going to be a journey marked by crime, tragedy, and violence - but it doesn't have to be humorless in its exploration of these elements.
Quentin Tarantino consistently makes moments of crime and extreme violence funny (see: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained...). With Todd Phillips attached to the project, there's good reason to assume that this Joker origin movie can deliver a perfectly balanced black comedy experience.
The other big danger with a Joker origin movie (besides the pitfalls of over-explaining the character) is that in telling the story leading up to The Joker's creation, you're arguably robbing viewers of the most dynamic and entertaining character in the lineup (Joker himself).
In order to work around the inherit deficiency of having the full-fledged Joker absent from his own origin sotry, the film will need to compensate with a cast of colorful psychopaths.
They can be gangsters, serial killers, or other Batman rogues before they fully adopt their supervillain identities - but no matter what, they've got to be dynamic, entertaining, with a shocking capacity for violence.
Even the "good guys" of Gotham City (cops, lawyers, judges) need to be larger-than-life, while Joker is still in his more reserved and docile beginnings. After all, The Clown Prince of Crime needs to get his inspiration from somewhere, and this origin story can provide insight into the dark influences that shaped the iconic Joker persona.
What are your thoughts on how to do a Joker Origin Movie right? Let us know @ComicbookNow!