×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Will Warner Bros. Confuse Fans With Two Joker Stories — and Its New DC Banner?

Fans of DC Comics aren’t in a laughing mood about Warner Bros.’ plans to develop two new films based on the Joker.

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the executive producers of NBC hit “This Is Us,” are in advanced talks to produce an untitled “Suicide Squad” spinoff based on Batman supervillains the Joker and Harley Quinn, played by Jared Leto and Margot Robbie. Then there’s a solo movie in development, possibly directed by “The Hangover’s” Todd Phillips, that dives into the Joker’s backstory, except Leto won’t play him here.

Potentially even more confusing: These Jokers won’t have anything to do with each other. That means two actors will be putting their own spins on Batman’s archnemesis. Educating audiences could prove tricky.

After all, the approach is radically different from how Marvel has comprehensively planned its cinematic universe under studio president Kevin Feige. Marvel films feature a consistent “house style,” making it difficult for directors to leave their unique imprint on a movie. Director Edgar Wright dropped out of helming Marvel’s “Ant-Man” over creative differences.

Phillips’ planned Joker film would be the first under a new, untitled DC banner that won’t be constrained by the continuity that holds together DC’s extended universe, featuring Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and other characters. The banner is intended to give the studio the chance to expand the canon with unusual story angles, according to those with knowledge. A spokesman for Warner’s declined to comment for this story.

DC’s approach appears to be more in line with Warner’s reputation as an auteur-driven studio that has spawned distinctive superhero adaptations like Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight.” As the studio has labored to distinguish itself from Marvel, it has been actively entertaining pitches from directors around town. The likes of James Wan and Robert Zemeckis have made the trek to Burbank to sell the studio on their vision for the spandex set. Or take the case of Joss Whedon. The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator is now developing a “Batgirl” movie for DC; it’s one that the studio hadn’t planned on doing until Whedon confessed to his love of Barbara Gordon and her masked alter ego.

Whedon’s film, however, isn’t part of the new DC banner, which is expected to create one-off films set outside the larger-budget tentpoles of DC’s current cinematic universe.

Some DC fans are intrigued, but the new banner has also inspired some negative reactions, in part because DC’s critical and commercial film hits have been uneven. “Wonder Woman” became a cultural milestone this summer, topping $800 million worldwide and bringing the studio a much-needed smash that critics and audiences alike embraced. Meanwhile “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” grossed $873 million and $746 million, respectively, but suffered from scathing reviews. DC will try to build on the success of “Wonder Woman” with next fall’s “Justice League.”

“‘Wonder Woman’ catapulted the brand,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. “Why not change the rules a little bit in an effort not only to create their own identity but to have even greater success in the marketplace?”

While Marvel has arguably set the gold standard, there’s a case to be made in going your own way rather than imitating the competition. By granting directors more control, DC is signaling that it’s less focused on creating an all-encompassing universe where films have to fit together like puzzle pieces and more concerned with keeping the genre fresh for audiences.

“‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Guardians’ all really confirm that it’s not just about putting something out,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It’s more about taking a fresh approach.”

Directors may find themselves on a tighter leash if DC’s bets don’t play off. As Slashfilm.com’s Peter Sciretta notes, pleasing die-hard fans is great, but blockbusters are built by reaching the broadest possible audience. “Great performances, complicated writing — that’s what audiences want,” he said. “It’s maybe not what fanboys want, but I think that when we see more auteurs doing genre films at that level, we’re going to see bigger box office numbers.”

More Film

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

  • Marc Malkin The Big Ticket Podcast

    Variety, iHeartMedia Launch New Film Podcast 'The Big Ticket' With Marc Malkin

    Variety and iHeartMedia have announced the premiere of “The Big Ticket,” a new weekly film-focused podcast hosted by Marc Malkin, the magazine’s senior film awards and events & lifestyle editor. The podcast will feature sit-down interviews with Hollywood’s hottest stars and filmmakers talking movies, the business and more. New episodes will be released every Thursday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content