Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker performance has been a revelation to comic book fans around the world. Not only has the movie exceeded expectations, but it even generated discussion about a possible sequel down the line. With all this success, you would think anyone involved in the comic book film world would be happy for Phoenix’s success. Well, not exactly.
Jared Leto “upset” after new Joker film
According to the Hollywood Reporter, previous Joker actor Jared Leto was not too keen on the idea of being replaced as the infamous crime prince of Gotham City. The 47-year old actor felt “alienated and upset” after discovering Warner Bros. had approved director Todd Phillips’ idea of making a solo Joker film. Although Leto hasn’t made any comments about the film’s controversial aspects, he does feel as if Warner Bros. had kicked him out of the D.C. franchise.
Leto’s take on Joker wasn’t received well back in 2016. Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, was a smash hit at the box office, earning close to $750 million. Fans appreciated actor Will Smith’s take on the comic book assassin Deadshot, as well as actress Viola Davis’ take on Amanda Waller. However, one such character who hardly had got any praise was the Joker.
During the early marketing for Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. released a first look photo of Leto’s Joker. Comic book fans were angry when they first saw the grill, the tattoos, and the maniac without any cause approach the studio and director were attempting. Leto’s Joker had the classic chalky white skin tone and bright green hair, but he didn’t immediately capture the essence of the Joker character. Suddenly it took the strength of one leaked Comic-Con trailer to get things on the right track.
After facing the backlash of another D.C. film, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the studio quickly realized that they needed to put all their bets on Suicide Squad. Warner Bros. reacted by making the film more of a James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy superhero movie. The studio added in music and quick edits to keep from having a similar pace as Dawn of Justice. Although the studio thought it would save the film, in actuality, it caused the film to feel choppy and incoherent. Suddenly scenes felt misplaced, and characters weren’t given as much dialogue as they should. Leto’s Joker character suffered the most from the re-shoots.
Back in 2017, Leto revealed how he felt “confused” at the lack of involvement from his character post Suicide Squad. During the same year, Warner Bros. was facing another fan backlash with their equivalent to Marvel’s The Avengers with the superhero team-up film Justice League. The film failed to meet expectations and became the lowest D.C. film to hit theaters since the new era of superhero films kicked off with the first Iron Man in 2008. Justice League became the second-lowest in 2019 after the release of Shazam!, which only was able to pull in $365 million at the box office.
The new Joker
Warner Bros. decided to change courses again with the announcement of a solo Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix. The film would inevitably serve as a fork in the road for the studio, which in the past was able to pull in over $1 billion thanks to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga. Phoenix’s Joker is quite the contrast to Leto’s Joker. Leto’s Joker depicts the modern gangster look and attitude. Phoenix’s depicts the pain and tribulations of mental health in a society that either ignores or causes it to be worse. Despite the controversial nature of the film, Phillips’ Joker has sparked a discussion among film fans and critics about the quality of the comic book genre and society as a whole.
In the meantime, the studio hopes to relaunch the Suicide Squad with director James Gunn.