Warner Brothers is reportedly developing a film based on the classic Batman villain the Joker which will take place outside of their DC Comics Expanded Universe film franchise.
Deadline is reporting that Todd Phillips, helmer of the Hangover trilogy of comedies will co-write the project with 8 Mile screenwriter Scott Silver as well as direct. More interestingly, none other than Martin Scorsese is set to produce. As Deadline states –
The intention is to make a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early-’80s Gotham City that isn’t meant to feel like a DC movie as much as one of Scorsese’s films from that era, like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or The King Of Comedy.
Now before everybody gets all crazy, let’s keep a few things in mind. Chiefly, that every film in development doesn’t get made. Hell, they don’t even have a script together yet. It could easily fall to pieces at any point long before cameras could potentially roll. Even Deadline admits “there is nothing firm on where this will fit into the DC schedule.”
But why try and tell this story in the first place? True, the joker’s origin has been explored in the comics before with numerous variations. Alan Moore even incorporated a number of those conflicting versions into his classic graphic novel The Killing Joke by using the Joker himself as an unreliable narrator. And that, defining the Joker as a crazed force moving through Gotham City with no known source, is what makes him truly terrifying. Christopher Nolan declined to give us an origin for the character when he appeared in The Dark Knight and that worked well to the film’s advantage. It seems to me that Scorsese is an astute enough filmmaker that he should realize this about the character.
And maybe Scorsese does. Perhaps the plan is make the movie like a Rashomon style telling of its story – presenting multiple versions and leaving it to the viewer to decide which is the reality. Scorsese is a fan of Rashomon director Akira Kurosawa, so such an idea may have an appeal to him. Of course, this is just speculation.
What’s also of interest in the report is the suggestion that this will not be tied into Warner’s ongoing DC Comics Expanded Universe franchise. Deadline specifically states –
This will be the first film under a new banner that has yet to be named in which WB can expand the canon of DC properties and create unique storylines with different actors playing the iconic characters.
This is an interesting way for Warners to continue to leverage the characters in the DC Comics stable, without necessarily making audiences think they have to be keeping up with multiple films a year in the main interconnected franchise. In a way, it is somewhat similar to how there are multiple films per year based on Marvel Comics characters from both Marvel Studios and Fox Studios, though they exist in their own separate cinematic universes. That situation is of course due to Fox owning the rights to the X-Men characters while Marvel has a good majority everything else from their publishing arm available to them. But with Warners, it’s all under one studio roof. It should be interesting to see how they continue to fill out this alternate schedule.