Warner Bros. on Thursday opened Joker, its latest film inspired by the DC Comics universe. Described by director Todd Phillips as an effort to “take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head,” the R-rated and controversial Joker isn’t intended to be the setup for a parade of sequels or spinoffs.
Instead, Phillips wanted to be the first to examine a major comic book creation through the lens of a 1970s-style character study like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Taxi Driver. “I was definitely influenced by the movies that I grew up on, these great character studies of the ‘70s,” Phillips said during the Venice Film Festival. “And kept thinking, ‘Well, why can’t you do a genre film in the comic book world like that, and really do a deep dive on a character like Joker?’ And if you get a great actor and great people behind it, we could really do something special.”
In that sense, Joker stands alone: the film ends with no mid-credits scene or post-credits tag. Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix also have no plans for a sequel.
“Well, I don’t think we’re gonna make a second one. That’s just not in our plans,” Phillips recently told Jake Hamilton. “But for fun, have me and Joaquin bounced around ideas? We were doing it when we were shooting, because that’s what you do sometimes.”
Phillips earlier was forced to clarify comments some interpreted to mean he was game for a Joker 2 when he said he and Phoenix could conceive a second creative collaboration.
“I would do anything with Joaquin, any day of the week. There’s nobody like him,” Phillips told Total Film Magazine. “If he was willing to do it, and if people show up to this movie, and Warners came to us and said, ‘You know what? If you guys could think of something…’ Well, I have a feeling that he and I could think of something pretty cool.”
When clarifying those comments during an early screening in Los Angeles, the director said neither he nor studio Warner Bros. have plans for a followup to Joker.
“The quote was, ‘I will do anything Joaquin wants to do,’” Phillips said. “And I would. But the movie’s not set up to [have] a sequel. We always pitched it as one movie, and that’s it.”
Early reports from Thursday night preview showings say Joker is poised to beat Sony-Marvel’s Venom and set a record for an October-best Thursday night. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Robert De Niro, Joker is now playing.