This Joker 2 news isn't the first time I've been wary of this series. When it was first announced that Todd Philips, the director of Old School and The Hangover trilogy, was making a standalone Joker movie, I can’t say my expectations were particularly high. When Joaquin Phoenix was announced in the eponymous role my curiosity was piqued, but my anticipated levels remained fairly subdued.
Much to my surprise, The Joker was a complete triumph when it dropped in 2019. Sure, it shamelessly cribs much of its narrative from Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, but in the increasingly cookie-cutter comic book movie space, Joker felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air. And clearly, I wasn’t the only one that enjoyed the story of how Arthur Fleck became The Joker, as the film went on to unexpectedly gross more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Earlier this year it was confirmed that Joker 2 — one of the biggest upcoming DC movies — is happening, and just this week we got confirmation that Lady Gaga will be appearing in the sequel as well. She’s strongly speculated to be playing Harley Quinn.
Considering my great enjoyment of the first film, you might expect me to be thrilled with the news that a sequel is coming, especially now that it added an Academy Award nominated actress to its cast list. And yet, from the snippets of information we’ve got about Joker 2, I’m already preparing myself for disappointment.
A tune I’d rather not hear
My biggest concern about Joker 2 comes from one single sentence found in The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab): “Sources say the sequel is also a musical.”
Now, let me get one thing straight: I don’t dislike musicals. In fact, I actually quite enjoy them. I’ve seen musical stage productions on both sides of Atlantics, and last year’s big screen adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen is one of my guilty pleasure films. But, a musical follow-up to 2019’s Joker does not sound appealing.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about the first Joker movie was that it felt grounded compared to its comic book contemporaries. Sure, it’s not exactly a “realistic” film in several aspects, but compared to the increasingly-cosmic Marvel Cinematic Universe, it felt more like a violent thriller than a movie based on an iconic supervillain born in the pages of a comic book.
I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of a musical sequel not feeling completely over-the-top and inherently cartoonish. Presumably, Joker 2 will be going for a wackier tone, and that’s definitely not what I want from the sequel. The casting of Lady Gaga would further indicate the sequel will be more theatrical, or at the very least there will be some musical sequences of that nature.
Gaga is a talented performer, and she was excellent in A Star is Born and solid in House of Gucci, but she definitely wouldn’t have been the Harley Quinn I expected for this iteration of the Prince Clown of Crime. Then again, superhero films are littered with casting choices that seemed questionable upon announcement but ended up being inspired — Health Ledger as The Dark Knight’s Joker being the most iconic.
Do we even need a Joker 2?
My other reservation about Joker 2 is how it feels fundamentally unnecessary, not that this has ever stopped a movie studio before. I’m not blind to the realities of Hollywood if a movie grosses over $1 billion chances are it’s going to get a sequel, but Joker wrapped up its story so perfectly. I didn’t walk out of the theatre feeling any real need to see more of Arthur Fleck.
Joker didn’t leave any dangling plot threads. Furthermore, Fleck went through a complete character arc from a downtrodden outcast to a nihilistic criminal who becomes the figurehead of a violent mob. You could argue we’ve not seen him square off against a certain nocturnal crimefighter, but a showdown with Batman would feel out of place for this interpretation of the character.
In fact, any news that even hints that Batman, or any other member of the Batfamily, will be involved in Joker 2 would have me even more worried than the reports the sequel is to be set to music.
Outlook: I’ll reserve final judgment for now
While I’m definitely not feeling the hype for Joker 2, I’ll be reserving my final judgment until I'm sitting in a movie theater in October 2024 watching the film for myself. After all, I didn’t have high expectations going into the first film and look how that turned out. I’m definitely not writing this sequel off yet.
It also shouldn’t be overlooked that Phoenix is notoriously picky about his projects. He is even reported to have turned down the role of Doctor Strange because he was unwilling to sign up for multiple films as Marvel requires of its actors. If the idea for Joker 2 was good enough to get Phoenix to agree to reprise the role, then that’s a pretty encouraging sign that makes up for much of my current misgivings.
So, while I won’t be counting down the days until Joker: Folie à deux — yes, that’s its actual title, and yes, it’s really dumb — hits theatres, when it does arrive I’ll still be there in the front row and very much hoping this article will have aged like milk.