Big news broke recently about an upcoming live-action DC movie that would focus on The Joker and his origins. While still "in the early stages," The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips has been selected to direct and co-write a script with 8 Mile's writer Scott Silver. Surprisingly, Martin Scorsese is also producing alongside Phillips. Even more surprising, Jared Leto will not return for the role, despite already playing the character in last year's Suicide Squad. Instead, we're due to get a (probably) younger actor playing a The Joker in his early days in an '80s-era Gotham. A source described the film as a "gritty, hard-boiled crime film." To some DC fans, this is no laughing matter.
The first issue with this proposal is that the #DC Extended Universe already has a Joker. Jared Leto's turn (and Suicide Squad as a whole) may not have been loved by the majority of critics (or even fans), but for better or worse this is the version that was created for this movie world. Replacing Jared Leto with someone who may be wildly different in appearance and mannerisms will certainly cause confusion to the casual viewer, and disconnect fans who value consistency.
Supposedly, this will be one of many films by Warner Bros. that will focus on unique takes of iconic characters, most likely all played by different actors. It's unknown at this point whether or not these will be one-offs that may fit into the larger #DCEU (such as Rogue One with Star Wars), or if it will be a completely standalone tale outside of the other movies.
Either take has inherent problems. If it's connected, why would the DCEU have two versions of such an iconic character? Or, if these potential movies are disconnected, doesn't that go against the whole point of an extended universe?
All Those Wonderful Stories
Part of the appeal of #TheJoker in the comics is that nobody really knows for sure how he became a villain. The Killing Joke is doubtlessly the most popular version, where he's portrayed as a failed comedian who has a very bad day. After being used by some criminals for a heist, he ends up falling into a vat of chemicals and becomes the bleached, insane psychopath we all know. However, this is just one of many unofficial backstories. For example, the latest plot line in the comics introduces the theory that there have been three separate Jokers during Batman's career, each accounting for a different interpretation.
All of those potential explanations sound a little crazy and overblown, and give The Joker a larger-than-life persona. Watching an in-depth, two-hour movie about his origin would take all of that mystique away, and would most likely be unsatisfying as a standalone. Heath Ledger's legendary #Joker in The Dark Knight appeared in Gotham out of nowhere like a force of nature, and the movie never bothered to tell us how. Joker even played around with fake origin stories for his scars within the movie, and these lies (or half-truths) only made his chaotic figure that much scarier.
Why So Serious?
Finally, do we really want a movie entirely focused on The Joker? The character has already been heavily explored in multiple movie outings, whether it's Jack Nicholson's more classic clown, Mark Hamill's excellent voice acting, Heath Ledger's anarchic menace, or Jared Leto's Hot Topic spokesman. A Scorsese gangster version doesn't feel particularly needed.
If we do get the typical Scorsese crime drama figure, we're talking about a comic book movie restricted to a mature audience. While that might work well enough for Logan or Deadpool, are audiences ready to follow a truly evil villain for two hours? Will the story focus on his murder sprees and abusive relationships with women, or will it be more of a tragic tale with a depressing ending? Either way, it could potentially make Batman v Superman look like a lighthearted comedy — and yes, that does sound like a bad joke.