Despite the colossal box office success and the occasional critical acclaim, many in the film industry continue to turn their noses up at the superhero film genre. If this doesn’t change their attitudes, nothing will. None other than one of the true greats, Martin Scorsese is about to *Biff!* *Bam!* *Pow!* his way into the field by producing an origin film spotlighting possibly the most famous villain in all of comics, The Joker. Todd Phillips (‘The Hangover’) and Scott Silver (‘The Finest Hours’, ‘The Fighter’) are reportedly already at work on the script. Not on board? Jared Leto, who threw himself fully into the role of the Clown Prince of Crime in last year’s divisive ‘Suicide Squad’.
That is because this will be the first film to fall “under a new banner which has yet to be named in which WB can expand the canon of DC properties and create unique storylines with different actors playing the iconic characters.” It is expected that the actor selected to play The Joker will be younger than Leto. The setting is described as “gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early-’80s” and isn’t expected to even look like a comic book movie at all, but instead like… well, a Scorsese production. Think ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Raging Bull’, ‘Goodfellas’ or even his HBO series ‘Boardwalk Empire’.
The Joker, created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, first appeared in ‘Batman’ #1 in 1940 and quickly became one of the hero’s most recurring and persistent foes. It wasn’t until 1951’s ‘Detective Comics’ #168 that he was given an origin.
The Joker had been a regular crook who was convinced by his fellow bandits to don the masked identity of The Red Hood, but during a botched robbery at the Ace Chemical Plant, The Red Hood was shot by a police officer. (Batman didn’t exist yet in the comics, despite later adaptations placing the Caped Crusader at the scene of the incident.) The injured Red Hood fell into a vat of chemicals and washed out into the nearby river. (Note to self: Never drink the water in Gotham City.) When the criminal returned home, he discovered the chemicals had turned his skin chalk white, his hair green and his lips bright red and apparently permanently turned up into a rictus grin. This origin was depicted in much greater detail in the 1988 comic ‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore with art by Brian Bolland.
Interestingly, Moore’s tale cast a shadow of doubt over this origin, so it’s not for certain that it’s even true. In the 1989 ‘Batman’ movie, Jack Nicholson played Jack Napier, a crook who became The Joker. This was the first time the villain was ever given a real name. It was later used on ‘Batman: The Animated Series’. But it’s unclear how the new movie will impact the character’s lengthy history, or if it will have any impact at all on the comics or other films.
Normally, a Martin Scorsese-produced crime-drenched Joker movie would sound fantastic… and it still does, but having multiple live action movies using the same characters that are appearing elsewhere sounds confusing. After all, the creators of ‘Arrow’ were no longer allowed to use the Suicide Squad when Warner Brothers began developing the live action movie because they thought audiences would be too confused by having two different versions of the same characters in two different live action media. Now they’re going to have two different versions of The Joker in the SAME medium?
But I guess if Martin Scorsese says he wants to make a movie based on one of your properties, you just say “Yes, please!” Then again, Batman and The Joker, not to mention Spider-Man, have all been rebooted on the big screen within a few short years between movies. Perhaps, audiences just “get it.”
How does this project sound? Are you excited by the prospect of a gritty origin for The Joker? Or will that take away some of his mystique?