Todd Phillips’ standalone Joker movie starring Joaquin Phoenix is officially happening. For every person excited by the idea of Phoenix tackling the iconic Batman villain, there seems to be ten more people skeptical about the Warner Bros.-backed project. Phillips’ movie is not a part of the studio’s DC Extended Universe, but given how hard Warner Bros. has struck out with critics on “Batman v Superman,” “Suicide Squad,” and “Justice League,” fan skepticism is certainly justified.
Kevin Smith, an outspoken comic book fanatic and a Batman super-fan, understands why some people might worry about Warner Bros. taking on a standalone Joker film, but the filmmaker is choosing to remain optimistic about the property. During a recent episode of the “Hollywood Babble-On” podcast, Smith explained why Warner Bros. was making a smart move with banking on Phillips and Phoenix (via CinemaBlend).
“I think what they’re doing is smart,” Smith said. “This is a cheap movie, it’s $55 million. They’re not spending…$55 [million] for a comic book property? That’s very inexpensive. They’re going ‘Logan’ model, which is keep it low-budget and make it more adult.”
James Mangold’s “Logan” reportedly cost less than $100 million before marketing, as did the first “Deadpool” movie. Unsurprisingly, both of these superhero films were praised for their singular visions that set them apart from the other entries in the superhero genre. “Logan” and “Deadpool” were cheaper to make and thus studios gave filmmakers like James Mangold more freedom to tell a specific kind of story. Audiences and critics responded with praise, which is a model Warner Bros. is trying emulate with Phillips’ Joker film.
“They’re experimenting. You gotta applaud ’em for this,” Smith said. “Everyone’s always shitting on Warner Bros. going, ‘You’re fucking up your movies!’ And like, this is them trying a new direction where they’re like, ‘Look, obviously the extended universe stuff we’re having a problem with. How about we just go back to the old way, which we used to do, where we just fuckin’ take material, give it to a director, and say fuckin’ go, and we don’t worry about a fanbase and connecting the movies.'”
Smith makes a good point about the standalone Joker movie being a chance for Warner Bros. to get superhero filmmaking right. Without the pressures of a massive budget or the obligations of the DCEU, Phillips and Phoenix have the freedom to take some risks and make something truly original in the superhero genre.
Listen to Smith and co-host Ralph Garman’s “Hollywood Babble-On” podcast below.