When it comes to comic book movies, the name of the game is sequels. It’s rare that a superhero flick gets produced without plans for more. Honestly, that’s just a standard story structure thing for comics. They’re pretty much always serialized. But not every movie based on a comic book is necessarily designed for a sequel. Joker may be one of those movies.
This psychological thriller released in 2019 took a much different look at Gotham’s clown prince of crime. It won a boatload of awards, including the Best Actor trophy for Joaquin Phoenix at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck’s journey into being the Joker. As one would expect, there has been a lot of discussion of what a sequel would look like. But the more important question is if that movie even needs one at this point.
A new Joker rises
There has long been a discussion as to who Batman’s greatest enemy is. Names like Bane and Ra’s al Ghul often come up in the conversation. While there is an argument to be made for both of them, it’s hard to dispute Joker’s claim to that title. He and Batman are two sides of the same twisted coin. And as The Batman Who Laughs has proven in the comics, the Caped Crusader isn’t too far off from becoming as bad as Joker.
Time and time again, Joker has made his way into other media. He is perpetually the villain in various TV series, video games, and movies. Jack Nicholson famously played the character in the now-classic Batman 1989. And the late Heath Ledger took a unique turn as the villain in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. But the 2019 film might have been the most interesting live-action take of all time.
The movie was written and directed by Todd Phillips. Prior to this film, he was best known for comedies like Old School and The Hangover franchise. Seeing him attached to a movie like Joker was unexpected, to say the least. It was darker and more violent than any prominent work fans had seen from him before. But given the number of accolades it racked up, the movie was obviously a huge success and he was the right person for the job.
Set in 1981, it told the story of a failed party clown and stand-up comic living in Gotham City named Arthur Fleck. He was constantly being beaten up by life and society. The film chronicled his breakdown as he slipped further into madness, finally becoming a murderer and a charismatic leader of the city’s downtrodden population. Nicknamed the Joker, Fleck ended the movie attempting to escape from Arkham Asylum.
What could possibly be next?
As is often the case with popular films, sequel talks have been in the works pretty much since it hit theaters. The movie was conceived by Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver as a standalone film. It wasn’t intended to have a sequel, though the door has been left open for one. In May 2021, it was reported that a sequel is in the works and Phillips has signed on to write it. Phoenix has also made it clear that he’s interested in coming back for round two.
One of the ideas that have been bounced around was doing a movie focusing on the Batman of this world. The riots instigated by Fleck caused the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their son Bruce. There is an obvious jumping-off point for a movie about the Dark Knight. Willem Dafoe has also mentioned an interest in playing Joker in this world in some capacity, which could dovetail into that concept nicely.
At the same time, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck was a huge part of what made this story so compelling. It was his descent into madness that viewers and critics responded to. That being said, bringing him back in a second film holds the inherent potential to become a more typical hero/villain story. A way to avoid that would be by focusing on another villain and examining their own journey into the heart of darkness.
Again, a story focusing on this world’s Batman has potential. But there are so many villains in Batman’s rogue’s gallery that there is ample opportunity to use Joker as a means of looking into their origins. An obvious choice would be Harley Quinn, Joker’s long-time paramour and partner in crime. Regardless of how it turns out, a sequel to Joker seems all but inevitable at this point, though fans will continue to debate how necessary it is.