Warner Bros. has never had the clearest vision for what it wants to do with its DC universe movies, and one new idea the studio is now reportedly adding to the mix is a Joker origin story film produced by none other than Martin Scorsese. Deadline reports that the project, which is said to be in the early stages, will be directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), from a script by the director and The Fighter screenwriter Scott Silver. According to the report, it will be part of a new sub-brand at Warner Bros. that will focus on creating original riffs on various DC characters.
As such, the project won’t feature Jared Leto, who recently played the role in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. The new Joker movie is described as a “hard-boiled crime film” that would take place in the early 1980s. Scorsese appears to be serving as an aesthetic and stylistic influence, with Deadline’s report calling out Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy as tonal references — a wild contrast from the hyped-up, Mountain Dew vibe of Ayer’s film.
Given the problems Warner Bros. and DC have had in creating a coherent cinematic universe, the news can be read as a sign that the studio may be abandoning its Marvel-esque strategy altogether. Its different movies have never really meshed, with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice coming off as far too dark, and Suicide Squad desperately embracing comedy in what could best be described as an incoherent overcorrection. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman has been the only film to truly stand on its own, but with two Justice League movies and various other sequels already in the pipeline, Warner Bros. has to see its current strategy through to a certain degree.
The new banner that the Joker film will reportedly fall under could represent a pivot in the larger strategy — a way for the studio to just focus on telling interesting, filmmaker-driven stories based around various DC characters without having to bother with the tonal and narrative continuity that Marvel has excelled at. At the very least, a Scorsese-producer Joker film would be the most prestigious DC film since Christopher Nolan left The Dark Knight franchise.