Regardless of how you felt about Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker in Suicide Squad, we’re about to be seeing a lot more of him as the Clown Prince of Crime, as Variety have reported that Warner Bros. are in the early stages of developing a Joker standalone movie with Leto in the lead role. This project is unrelated to the upcoming Joker origins movie, which will be directed by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips and will not be part of the DCEU.
In addition to starring, Leto will also produce the currently untitled standalone film, although that’s pretty much all we know so far. No director has been confirmed, and there’s no word of a release date. And before you ask, we don’t know if Batman will also be making an appearance, but as it will be a film focusing on the Joker, the Caped Crusader will probably only show up in a supporting capacity, if at all. It’s also currently unclear if Leto will also return as the Joker in either Suicide Squad 2 or the upcoming Harley Quinn spinoff, Birds of Prey.
Critics and fans were divided by Leto’s Joker when he showed up briefly in Suicide Squad back in 2016, with some arguing that he was the best thing in the film and others saying that he was the worst incarnation of the character yet. To be fair, however, it will be hard to truly formulate an opinion on Leto’s Joker based solely on his appearance in Suicide Squad, as his incredibly limited screen time meant that he clearly did not have any truly dramatic moments for us to judge his performance by.
Although the extended cut of Suicide Squad added a tiny bit more footage of the Joker (and fans are keeping their fingers crossed for WB to release an even longer third cut one day), it really would not be right to pass a final judgement on Leto’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime in a film where he has nothing more than a glorified cameo. He didn’t even have a whole lot of dialogue throughout the brief moments he was on-screen, and ended up doing little more than laugh and shoot guns. Which is a shame really, because we know that Leto is a brilliant actor (he even won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club), so it sucks that he was cast as one of the most iconic characters of all time and then given very little to do. Let’s hope his standalone Joker film rectifies that by having him on-screen for the entire duration of its runtime.
It could also be argued that, seeing as the Joker is supposed to be a force of anarchy and chaos, the idea of making him into a mob boss, as he was in Suicide Squad, was anathema to his character. The Dark Knight brilliantly showed us the Joker’s utter disdain for organized crime, firstly by having him permanently wipe out the Gotham City underworld (arguably making him a stronger hero than Batman could ever be) but also by giving us that iconic moment when he burns the gigantic pile of cash, exclaiming “it’s not about money, it’s about sending a message. Everything burns.” We can only hope that the writers of the upcoming standalone film learn from this.
Of a different note, the news that Warner Bros. are moving ahead with a DC Extended Universe Joker movie could be a sign that they are moving ahead too quickly. Keep in mind that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice grossed just enough money to earn a net profit, while Justice League massively underperformed, so clearly the popularity of the DCEU is waning.
With that in mind, is it really a good idea to be moving ahead so rapidly by announcing so many upcoming DCEU films, instead of just taking it slow and focusing on one project at a time? As we also learned from the box office failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story, franchise fatigue can easily set in when studios become overconfident and decide to release too many shared universe movies within a limited time period, which does not reflect well on the rapidly increasing slate of DCEU projects. Perhaps it would have been a good idea for WB to instead see how the non-DCEU Joker origins movie performs financially, to determine if there really is enough of an audience for not one, but two movies about the character, and for them to release the Leto standalone film further down the road. In the words of Luke Skywalker, it appears that their overconfidence might be their weakness.
Having said that, however, I’m truly excited to see Leto finally flex his Joker chops in his upcoming standalone project, whatever it ends up being called. While it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to reach the same heights as Heath Ledger in his Oscar winning performance in The Dark Knight, I’m still confident that with little studio interference and a decent director at the helm (and possibly an R-rating), we could be in for something truly special. We’re probably going to be hearing a lot more about this in the coming months, so for now, I’m going to remain eagerly optimistic.