The news that we might be getting an origin movie for the Joker isn’t exactly exciting news.
This is a character who works best because he’s a mystery – the whole point of the Joker in, say, The Dark Knight, is that he has no discernible backstory or origin.
Do you wanna know how he got those scars? Tough luck! He’s going to tell you a different origin story each time he discusses them.
Filling in the gaps and making the Joker’s backstory concrete and solid doesn’t feel like a good idea. It’s too restrictive, and robs the character of his shady mythos, making him just another over-explored comic book icon.
Wolverine is a good example of how this can go wrong; learning Logan’s backstory as a grumpy lumberjack with a dead girlfriend didn’t exactly make X-Men Origins: Wolverine a smash hit.
So how could Warner Bros possibly make this film sound like a good idea?
What about casting Leonardo DiCaprio as The Joker?
Hmm. Okay, yeah. That could definitely work.
It’s also, according to The Hollywood Reporter, something that might well happen if Warner Bros get their way. Proof, if ever we needed it, that these guys might actually have a good plan for this film after all.
We’ve seen DiCaprio’s range of acting talent in a lot of movies over the past few years. He can play things deadly serious, as in Gangs of New York. He can rush around like a crazy ball of cocaine-fueled energy, as in The Wolf of Wall Street. He can shiver and eat raw animal guts, as in The Revenant.
Seeing this guy take on such an iconic character sounds like something that makes this Joker movie worthwhile, assuming that the backstory is presented in the right way.
There’s a trick to this as well – how about, instead of just giving us a straight, plain origin for the character, the movie takes the idea that the Joker is never straight about his history, and blows that up into the story of the whole film.
This film should go the route of The Usual Suspects, and use the unreliable narrator trope to tell a larger-than-life fiction that’s clearly not entirely accurate, even within the confines of the story.
Picture this: The Joker is sat in a cell in Arkham Asylum, opposite a shadowy figure who’s hidden in darkness. The Joker gives a smile and begins to open up about his past, and the movie plays out as a series of flashbacks, not necessarily all in the right order, and all with the Joker’s narration over the top.
Things could get very Wolf of Wall Street – Leo’s Joker could pause, turn to the camera, break the Fourth Wall a bit, and generally play around with the concept of linear narrative.
The story is a hard-boiled detective tale set in the Eighties, but it’s also clearly hyper-real, over the top, and wildly inaccurate from scene to scene, as the Joker “mis-remembers” and changes details on the fly. This is also Inception, filtered through the lens of the Joker’s madness, with dreams within flashbacks and non-sequitur ridiculousness at every turn.
Then, finally, at the end of the movie, we return to the jail cell, as The Joker asks a question of his interviewer.
She leans forward, and yep, it’s Margot Robbie, as Harleen Quinzel. This entire movie has been the story of The Joker convincing Harley Quinn to bust him out of prison.
Sure, the continuity doesn’t make sense, but let’s just sub Leonardo DiCaprio into Jared Leto’s DCEU role and ignore the recasting. Nobody’s really going to complain.
This version of the movie fits together so well, that it’s probably the absolute best-case scenario for fixing what is, ostensibly, a very broken premise.
Fingers crossed Warner Bros execs are casually browsing the internet for ideas for this film – if you’re reading this, Geoff Johns, this movie premise is a freebie.
All we want is a decent Joker movie, please make it happen.