Director Todd Phillips expresses doubt that Joker will be able to beat Marvel, but is instead aiming to do something different. Actors like Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto have all played the character in movies over the years, but three-time Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix is the latest actor to take on the Joker.
Last year, Phoenix was officially cast as the Joker for an origin story of the character. Leto is currently the Joker in the DCEU as he was the last version of the character to be seen in Suicide Squad, but it remains to be seen if Phoenix’s version is connected to the DCEU or really just a standalone film. There were rumors that Robert Pattinson’s Batman may meet Phoenix’s Joker, but Phillips put those rumors to rest, reestablishing the belief that Joker will be a standalone feature. For years DC had been trying to play catch-up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but after the disappointment of Justice League, Warner Bros. began focusing more on passion projects rather creating a shared universe. This has allowed DC to start catching up to Marvel, but Phillips isn’t worried about competing with Disney.
When being interviewed by The Irish Times, Phillips briefly talked about Disney’s success with the MCU. Phillips began wondering how he could ever compete with the success that Marvel has had, especially since DC has a spotty track record for wins and losses at the box office. Eventually, he realized, “You can’t beat Marvel – it’s a giant behemoth. Let’s do something they can’t do.”
By making a gritty R-rated origin story for the Joker, Phillips really is doing something Marvel hasn’t done yet. While Deadpool is now owned by Disney, the R-rated Deadpool movies were distributed by 20th Century Fox, so Disney still hasn’t made one of the MCU films R-rated. So far, early reviews for Joker have praised the film and there’s even buzz that Joker is an Oscar contender for next year’s Academy Awards. Joker recently won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, which marked the first time that a comic book movie has ever won the award.
While Phillips’ comments about not being able to beat Marvel may seem pessimistic, he does have reason to believe that. Even though certain movies in the MCU got poor reviews, the films always perform well at the box office. Avengers: Endgame even surpassed Avatar as the highest-grossing movie of all time this year, meaning that competing with Marvel may seem like a daunting task. That being said, not focusing on trying to compete with other superhero movies could be the key to making Joker a success and creating a promising future for DC.