Why We Need a Joker Sequel
VOICE OVER: Dario D'Onofrio
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
This is why 2019's "Joker", directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, needs a sequel. Is this the last laugh for Joaquin Phoenix or are we just building to the punchline? Prior to the release of “Joker,” Phillips seemed disinterested in producing a follow-up, stating, “We have no plan for a sequel.” Phillips proceeded to say, “We made this movie, I pitched it to Warner Bros. as one movie. It exists in its own world. That's it.” Much like “Taxi Driver,” “Requiem for a Dream,” and “A Clockwork Orange,” many would agree that “Joker” works better as a self-contained story. Join WatchMojo as we break down why it may be a missed opportunity if we never see this incarnation of the Joker again — and why "Joker" needs a sequel.
Why Joker Needs a Sequel
Is this the last laugh for Joaquin Phoenix or are we just building to the punchline? Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be discussing why “Joker” needs a sequel.
Prior to the release of “Joker,” director Todd Phillips seemed disinterested in producing a follow-up, stating, “We have no plan for a sequel.” Phillips proceeded to say, “We made this movie, I pitched it to Warner Bros. as one movie. It exists in its own world. That’s it.” The lack of a post-credit scene only supported the film’s standalone nature. Much like “Taxi Driver,” “Requiem for a Dream,” and “A Clockwork Orange,” many would agree that “Joker” works better as a self-contained story. Given the reception to Phoenix’s performance and the potential storylines that can be explored, though, it may be a missed opportunity if we never see this incarnation of the Joker again.
Before the film hit theaters, many wondered if Phoenix’s Joker could cross over into the DCEU. Some have argued that this wouldn’t make sense since Jared Leto has already been established as the DCEU Joker. Then again, the DCEU is going through a retooling. Producer Peter Safran made it clear that James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” will be a “total reboot.” “Birds of Prey” seems to be cutting out Leto’s Joker altogether, shining the spotlight on Margot Robbie’s spot-on portrayal of Harley Quinn. Ben Affleck is also out as the Dark Knight, allowing Robert Pattinson to take up the cape and cowl in “The Batman.” When asked if Phoenix’s Joker would ever encounter Pattinson’s Batman, however, Phillips said, “No, definitely not.”
The timelines wouldn’t add up either, as “Joker” takes place in 1981 while most DCEU films are set in modern day. Even if “Joker” is part of a different continuity, having Phoenix join the DCEU shouldn’t be off the table. J.K. Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, but he’s still able to play the character in the MCU. Fans are eager to see Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool join the MCU, even though the “X-Men” movies have been set in another universe up to this point. Mark Hamill has also voiced the Joker in multiple continuities. Here’s an idea for the post-credit scene in “Birds of Prey:” Harley reunites with her puddin’, but instead of Leto, it’s Phoenix! It wouldn’t be consistent, but we guarantee everyone in the theater would applaud.
While seeing Phoenix’s Joker in the DCEU remains unlikely, a direct sequel isn’t out of the question. In the past, Phoenix has been resistant towards franchises, turning down the role of Doctor Strange. That’s one of the reasons why Phoenix was drawn to a standalone “Joker” movie. Since the film’s premiere, however, Phoenix seems to have changed his tune, describing the Joker as his “dream role.” Phoenix further stated, “Me and Todd would still be shooting now if we could, right? Because it seemed endless, the possibilities of where we can go with the character.”
Just because a story was meant to be self-contained doesn’t mean it has to remain that way. “The Killing Joke,” for example,” was a one-shot graphic novel, but several plot points are now part of the mainstream DC continuity. So how exactly could a sequel expand upon the first movie’s lore? Given how “Joker” ended, perhaps the sequel could pick up several years after Bruce Wayne witnesses the deaths of his parents. Having spent nearly a decade abroad, Bruce returns to Gotham to defend the city as Batman. Every serious version of Batman has delved into Bruce’s psychological torment, but this movie could explore his mental health like never before.
We know that Bruce becomes Batman to honor his parents and cope with his loss. What if this Batman is suffering from PTSD and untreated childhood trauma, though? What if Bruce has become suicidal and taking his pain out on criminals is the only thing that keeps him going? Maybe Bruce has a death wish, hoping that a thug with a gun gets lucky and puts him out of his misery. By once again making mental illness the central theme, the sequel could be another character study about the link between Arthur Fleck and Bruce Wayne. Where one man has fully given into his insanity, the other fights to cure himself and the madness that plagues his city. The differences and similarities between Arthur and Bruce are only made more powerful when you consider that they may share the same father.
That being said, since the first movie was told from the Joker’s perspective, the focus should remain on Arthur. So, what has Arthur been up to in Bruce’s absence? We’d suggest borrowing a page from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” having Arthur fall into a catatonic state after years of being locked up. Upon learning that a vigilante known as Batman is bringing order back to Gotham, Arthur suddenly comes out of his catatonia. Piecing together that Bruce returned to Gotham around the same time that Batman first appeared, Arthur is inspired to break out of Arkham and reunite with his potential half-brother.
Although Arthur has been locked up all these years, the Joker has remained a beacon of chaos in Gotham. The first film ended with citizens rioting in clown masks, which has now evolved into a cult of anarchists who idolize the Joker. Once Arthur is back on the streets, it’s as if their savor has returned to finish what he started years ago. It’s also possible that the Joker has inspired other villains who would fit in well with this more realistic universe, such as the Riddler, Scarecrow, and Victor Zsasz. We could even get a gritty version of Mr. Freeze, making him a coldhearted killer who stows the bodies of his victims in a freezer as trophies. Actually, any of these villains could get their own R-rated DC Elseworlds movies with Phoenix’s Joker popping up from time to time.
“Joker” ends with Arthur laughing about something, telling his psychiatrist she wouldn’t understand before presumably killing her. It’s been theorized that Arthur was laughing at the fact that his actions inadvertently got Bruce’s parents killed. Whether or not they’re related, Bruce was born with everything Arthur wanted, namely a loving father. Arthur has taken that all away from Bruce, which is the ultimate joke in Arthur’s demented mind. Now that Bruce has returned to Gotham as Batman, Arthur wants to bring him down to his level.
To quote Heath Ledger’s Joker, “Madness is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.” Bruce Wayne is already on the verge of madness, as anyone would have to be at least a little crazy to fight crime in a bat suit. The Joker’s goal in the sequel could be to completely plunge Batman into madness, turning Bruce from an enemy to an equal. Since this is an Elseworlds tale, the sequel could even take some major liberties and have Bruce either give into his insanity or give into his desire to take the Joker’s life. By breaking Batman’s mind, the Joker will have finally gotten the last laugh.
Of course, this is just one of the many possibilities for a “Joker” sequel. What do you think? Should we get another “Joker” movie with Phoenix? Should his Joker become part of the DCEU? Let us know in the comments!