Joker Director Says He Was "Misquoted" Concerning Comic Book Connections
Let's set the record straight.
The highly anticipated Joker movie's release date is inching ever closer. Are you looking forward to seeing the infamous Batman villain finally starring in his own movie? Let us know in the comments below.
It's no secret that the upcoming Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a new version of the Clown Prince of Crime, is a standalone film that won't connect to other recent live-action DC and Warner Bros. movies like Aquaman and Justice League. But a recent report that suggested Joker won't have anything to do with DC comics at all was incorrect, according to director Todd Phillips himself.
Speaking to journalists during a Q&A following a Joker screening in Los Angeles recently, Phillips claimed he was "misquoted" in the previous report--and he clarified the exact relationship between his Joker movie and the long history of DC comics.
"It's funny, because a lot of you guys have probably reprinted something I said in Empire, where I was misquoted," Phillips said. "I'm not gonna complain. I like the writer--he wrote a great piece, where I said, 'We didn't take anything from the comic book world.'
"That's actually not what I said. What I said was, 'We didn't take anything from one particular comic.' We kind of picked and chose what we liked from the 80-year canon of Joker."
Some of the Joker's iconic features are present in the new movie, such as his unnerving laugh. Other things are missing, such as the grinning facial scars the character sometimes possesses. And there are new elements, like the fact that this version of Joker loves to dance.
So how did Phillips and his co-writer, Scott Silver, decide what to include, what to lose, and what to change from existing Joker lore?
"Honestly, it was what served us," Phillips said. "Credit to Warner [Bros.] and DC, and a lot of it had to do with the fact that I've been at Warner for 15 years making movies, and I've earned some goodwill. So credit to them for going, 'Go do your thing, use what you want,' and it really was like, 'What serves us here?'"
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Joker does have other connections with the larger DC universe beyond the titular character himself. The biggest one is the character Thomas Wayne, played by Brett Cullen. Obviously, Bruce Wayne's father has also appeared in various iterations over the years, whether as a driving force for Batman or as a fleshed-out character in his own right. Wayne's inclusion in this movie provides a concrete connection to familiar Batman lore.
"[Thomas Wayne] is not in it a lot, but he casts a large shadow," Phillips explained.
Setting the film around the early '80s helped cement its independence from the DCEU, according to the director.
"There were a lot of reasons [we set it in the late '70s/early '80s]," he said. "One of the reasons was to separate it, quite frankly, from the DC Universe, when we pitched it to Warner Bros. and handed the script in--to sort of make it clear, 'This isn't f***ing with anything you have going on. This is a separate universe--so much so, it takes place in the past, before everything else.'"
Part of Phillips' goal with this movie was to "deconstruct the comic book movie a little bit."
"It can't all be CGI parking lot fights," Phillips said. "It's gonna just burn itself out."
Based on the reviews so far, Joker seems to succeed at that. The movie has scored a 70 on Metacritic as of the time of writing.
In GameSpot's Joker review, we said that "Joker succeeds, without equivocation, because it transforms the villain into the populist antihero we need him to be now. Joker wears its influences on its maroon sleeves, but it also carves its own gashes through the blood-soaked landscape of contemporary comic book movies, offering something that, despite teetering on the shoulders of 80 years of history, is wonderfully fresh, dangerously exciting, undeniably entertaining, and rock-solid in its artistry. It might make you uncomfortable, and it will no doubt stay with you long after the curtains close; great movies often do."
Joker hits theaters October 4. In semi-related news, The Suicide Squad director James Gunn recently revealed the cast list for his Suicide Squad sequel, and it's a doozy.