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(Warner Bros.)

No One Wants This Joker Spinoff, Besides Jared Leto

No thanks.

MICHAEL CAVNA, THE WASHINGTON POST
12 JUN 2018
 

With astonishing regularity, lumbering film franchises not named Marvel keep making Kevin Feige look ever more like a genius.

This week, it's DC's cinematic universe and Disney/Lucasfilm's "Star Wars" that, unintentionally through their missteps, bolster the impression that Feige is playing 3-D chess while they're playing Day-Glo checkers.

 

Consider that according to reports this week from the Hollywood trades, Warner Bros has two different Joker films in development, apparently starring different actors, Jared Leto and Joaquin Phoenix.

From the outside, that creates the impression of desperate overkill instead of measured progression.

Contrast that with Marvel.

Feige, as head of Marvel Studios, has a decade-long winning streak - a string of box-office smashes that perhaps only Pixar has matched on this side of the millennium.

And he should continue that success with next month's "Ant-Man and the Wasp," which need only perform solidly after the monster box office this year of Marvel's "Black Panther" and "Avengers: Infinity War" (a combined worldwide gross of more than $3.3 billion).

One gift that Feige and his fellow Marvel leaders especially have a knack for - despite the occasional speed bumps - is choosing the right projects. It's not because of Marvel, for instance, that Sony's Spider-Man franchise served up Peter Parker's origin story twice in a decade. Marvel builds out its phases with an uncanny blend of vision and precision.

 

Which brings us to the worlds of the Dark Lord and the Dark Knight.

From the first announcement, a "young Han Solo" story was a movie that few "Star Wars" fans had asked for. There was an appetite for a Boba Fett origin story - even one for Lando Calrissian - but seeing a new actor step into the iconic Harrison Ford role seemed like a dicey side dish all along.

As fans and critics point to a range of pet reasons why "Solo" tanked, the fact remains: The Young Han spinoff has grossed only $267 million worldwide and stands to take in only half, at best, of what Disney's other standalone "Star Wars" movie, 2016's "Rogue One" ($1.06 billion), did.

As such outlets as Screen Rant reported, "Solo" co-screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan was uncertain about doing the movie. Kasdan the Younger is quoted in the companion book "The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story" as saying:

"I was ambivalent about doing it with him (father Lawrence Kasdan) because I was skeptical there was a good movie in the story of Han's youth. I don't tend to like prequels because there's little to no suspense about whether the hero will survive."

 

Studios also must be wary about trotting out actors to play characters closely linked to iconic performances by previous actors.

But just as Lucasfilm believed that fans would warm to Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Warner Bros./DC seems to believe that moviegoers want more of the Joker - and want more of Jared Leto playing the same Batman villain that Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for portraying.

We first saw Leto's Clown Prince of Crime in "Suicide Squad," of course - the 2016 mess of a team-up movie that got little love from filmgoers beyond Margot Robbie's engaging performance as Harley Quinn.

It made sense that there was talk of Robbie's Harley getting her own "Birds of Prey" movie. But now, as Variety is reporting, WB/DC is in early development on a stand-alone Joker film starring Leto, who would also be an executive producer.

Was any loud contingent of fans really asking for this?

The Variety report is all the more confusing because last fall, Warner Bros. announced that it had greenlighted a Joker origin movie, which will be directed by Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix - part of a separate line of origin stories existing outside of the DC cinematic universe, which is itself a mess except for Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman franchise. Deadline Hollywood reports that the Joker origin movie is still in development.

 

The optics surrounding this latest Joker news aren't great, because it only increases the perception that Warner Bros. isn't sure quite what direction to go in after the poor reception to last year's Justice League.

It is not clear who at WB/DC has a clear vision for how to build out its cinematic worlds. Is there no sure-handed top traffic cop who can bring order to all the announced and rumored projects swirling around - a couple too many involving overused villains?

In other words: At Warner Bros, is there a single Kevin Feige to be found?

/Beyond is ScienceAlert's new section covering the wider world of gadgets, games, and digital culture.

2018 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

 

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