ACCORDING TO ABBEY: THE JOKE’S ON US!
Article by Abbey Archer
I’ve mentioned Batman quite a bit on this website — he’s a worldwide beloved figure, the films (overall) are well-done, and the story and mythos of the Dark Knight are just a lot of fun to dive into. But let’s be honest — anytime there’s mention of Batman, not far behind is the talk of his arguably more famous archenemy, the Joker. From the beginning, we’ve had some pretty incredible performances of the Clown Prince of Crime: the kitschy, mustachio’d maniac (Caesar Romero); the creep with a perma-grin (Jack Nicholson); the long-running veteran of evil laughter (Mark Hamill); and the psychopathic terrorist that we lost far too soon (Heath Ledger). The Joker has been a consistently relevant and fascinating figure in Batman lore — but just as everything is in life, he’s mostly enjoyed in moderation.
This week, however, word came from Hollywood that a Joker origin film is being developed. Several famous names have been thrown into the mix to write, produce, and possibly direct the flick. The idea has been received relatively lukewarm from fans and audiences alike, with several factions saying that, while they would rather not have one done, they would still most likely end up going to watch it.
No, people. Just … no.
Don’t do it. We don’t need it. We don’t want it.
I’m here to step onto my Joker Soap Box and toot my own unabashedly opinion-centric horn to convince you, dear folks, to join me in shouting NO! from the rooftops to a Joker origin film.
Reason #1: Keep the mystery.
The Joker, simply put, has a mysterious past. The original creators of the character intentionally made him a deceptive narrator, always not quite sure who he was before he became who he’s known as today. And while there have been some attempts at solidifying an official backstory for the Joker (such as Alan Moore’s masterpiece of a graphic novel, The Killing Joke), there is no real concrete evidence to back up his tall tales. With any other super villain, that could be a lame roundabout way of evading the simple question, but for the Joker, it has become synonymous with his character.
So why would you want to ruin the intrigue with an origin story? I can understand Sony wanting to release a Venom-centric film, as Venom deserves to be better represented on the silver screen — and his various origins are well-known among his fans. But the Joker? He’s all about the unreliability. In Tim Burton’s Batman film, the writers made the Joker murder Bruce Wayne’s parents, therefore completely changing Batman’s own inception and proving to be very divisive among hardcore fans. (Myself, included.) To give the Joker a legitimate how-I-came-to-be story would cheapen his very characterization, turning him into just another super villain that is motivated by tireless cliches that pervade their narratives.
Reason #2: Make room for other Rogues Gallery members.
As many fans know, the Joker isn’t just Batman’s only formidable opponent. The infamous Rogues Gallery contains some of the greatest, well-known villains in comic books: Two-Face, Killer Croc, the Penguin, Bane, the Red Hood, Riddler, and so forth. Some of these legendary villains have been portrayed excellently, while others … less so. (See Batman & Robin & Ahhhnold & the Kitchen Sink.) There are an endless wealth of memorable villains that have yet to be brought to the big screen.
Why not give these characters some love? With Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy getting their own spinoff film, and Deathstroke officially cast as the villain in the Ben Affleck standalone Batman film, we’re getting a representation of the Rogues. In fact, I would guess that there would be a lot more excitement from the public if a Mr. Freeze origin film was in the works. It would be beneficial to put the Joker on the shelf for a bit. I’m not saying to completely retire him; but after Jared Leto‘s abominable portrayal in the equally abominable Suicide Squad (face tattoos? Really? Gag me), maybe it’s time to give the spotlight over to these other fine villains.
Reason #3: Don’t follow the Spider-Man casting trend.
Shifting gears for just a bit, let’s talk Spider-Man. We’ve had 3 actors as the quippy, beloved web-slinger: Tobey Maguire in 2002, 2004, and 2007; Andrew Garfield in 2012 and 2014; and Tom Holland in 2016, 2017, and for at least three more movies hereafter. While all of these portrayals have been great, look closely at the years. In fifteen years, we’ve seen these three cycle through. Fifteen years is a very short amount of time to reboot a single character … it’s like superhero whiplash that doesn’t go away for a long time.
On the other hand, there have been several more years between live-action Joker portrayals on the big screen. Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson had twenty-three years between them, and Nicholson and Heath Ledger had nineteen years. Jared Leto was cast eight years after Ledger’s tragic passing, but that’s understandable. With a Joker origin story, a new actor would be cast altogether, obviously. Let’s not be subjected to Joker casting whiplash, please. It’s too much to reboot these fictional felons in such a short amount of time.
Reason #4: We’re already getting a Joker/Harley Quinn spinoff.
This just in; Apparently, Hollywood also just announced that a Joker and Harley Quinn standalone story is being developed, with Jared Leto reprising his Joker caricature. Why?
With this now going on, why do we need BOTH films? What is the point?
If it were up to me, I’d scrap the origin story and instead do a film centering around an older Joker — like in Frank Miller‘s magnum opus graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns. Imagine Bryan Cranston in that role … chills, man.
In the end, I know I’m just blowing in the face of the internet. I know that. But maybe, just maybe, if enough of us who are morally against any sort of a Joker origin film make our voices heard, the whole thing could at least be shelved for the time being. If we must get this dumb idea of a film, then I’m sure we’d rather have some kind of fun, especially when we’re all but forced purchase an overpriced ticket.
Lord help us all.