Earlier this week, comic book fandom was shaken to its core when it was reported that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment are planning an origin movie for one of their most famous and iconic characters, the Joker.
But there is a caveat, a second half of the announcement that was possibly an even bigger surprise: The movie will not be a part of DC’s only-just-coming-into-its-own Extended Universe. Rather than expanding on the Joker that was introduced to the DC Extended Universe, the Joker whose origin will be revealed will exist outside of the established DC films continuity.
The still-untitled branch of the studio will bring to the screen different versions and interpretations of DC’s most popular heroes — something akin to what the fans know as the DC Multiverse, or the Elseworlds stories. These movies will theoretically feature new twists on the characters we all know and love, with a level of creative freedom allowing for movies be set in any reality, in any time period, and star any actor. In short, movies that wouldn’t be beholden to the rules or history established by the current DCEU. That is exactly the plan for this just-announced Joker movie, which will explore a new version of the classic villain in an ’80s-set Gotham City, with the titular role played by a different actor than Jared Leto.
The possibility of telling new and different stories with established character unconstrained by continuity is an appealing idea. Indeed, many classic DC stories take place outside of the main continuity the DC Universe, like Kingdom Come and Superman: Red Son, the latter of which was already rumored to be the subject of a possible live-action adaptation. But while a dark crime movie set in the past of Gotham City sounds intriguing, it’s a mistake to center it around the premise of the Joker’s origin.
Introduced in 1940, in Batman #1, the Joker arrived with pale skin, green hair, a purple suit, and a smile on his face. With toxin and a penchant for killing people. He appeared fully formed, as the character he was always supposed to be. Her was no origin story; the obviously insane criminal appeared out of nowhere to haunt Gotham and its citizens. And therein lies the real truth of the Joker. As a super-villain, he works best as a character who emerged from the dark, a character whose real strength lies in his mystique. He’s so popular in part because the audience doesn’t know everything about him. Too much information can take away from a mysterious character’s appeal, and answers can take away from the aura these characters have.
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