With Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ movie currently dazzling the cultured critics and aspired audiences at the Venice Film Festival, DC’s standalone ‘Black’ universe seems to be off to a promising start. However a series of unconnected movies also means that they can’t just make ‘Joker 2’ and build a bunch of spinoffs from there. This instead give DC’s filmmakers free reign to experiment with unique and wildcard stories that would spoil any cohesive cinematic universe like Marvel. Below are a few potential ‘art films’ disguised as superhero movies that the ‘Black’ label could try.
The man of steel is always tricky to get right in whatever the medium. Make him too powerful and you’ve got nothing but a boring blue boy scout hogging a screen for two hours. Portray him as too weak and he’s hardly ‘Super’ anymore. Grant Morrison’s 2005 standalone story, ‘All-Star Superman’, bypassed that problem however, by giving us a Superman facing the most human problem of all-his own mortality. A cinematic adaption of Superman slowly dying of kryptonite poisoning could serve as a clever analogy for mankind and terminal illness. Seeing the usually invincible Kal-El slowly lose his strength throughout a movie yet retain his unshakeable hopes and faith in humanity, even knowing he will die by film’s end. Watching him still go to the trouble of helping overs through great pain, would be both beautiful and inspiring to all those who are effected by diseases that cannot be beaten. A sobering reminder that even the strongest soul can be cut short. A guaranteed Oscar to whoever plays Supes too.
Gotham By Gaslight
Batman has slowly been becoming more and more darker with every cinematic incarnation (excluding ‘Batman Forever’ and ‘Batman & Robin’), ever since Tim Burton’s gothic depiction back in 1989. It’s safe to say that audience’s love it when the Dark Knight lives up to his name. Although many saw Ben Affleck’s murderous vigilante version as a bit too much, that was mostly down to the fact that he was playing ‘THE Batman’, the one that was meant to play nice and crack jokes with the Justice League. Now if it was ‘A Batman’ killing people in Victorian era Gotham, the concept would be a much easier pill to swallow. That’s because, with alternate universes, the rules of a character’s integrity are a little more lax. In Gotham by Gaslight, Bat-series staples such as the batmobile, Robin, the Joker don’t necessarily exist, just Batman and his war on crime. Set in ‘simpler’ times a steampunk era Batman movie could showcase. just how dangerous and insane Bruce Wayne really is. If you thought Tim Burton’s Gotham was gothic…
The tie-in comic/ episode of the much beloved Batman animated series. This was the story that showed us that Harley Quinn is more than the Joker’s henchgirl, she’s also another one of his victims. Caught and convinced to stay in an abusive, loveless and exploitive relationship with a violent maniac, Harley’s tragic origin story, if told in the right way, (and without Margot Robbie’s ridiculously skimpy short-shorts) could resonate well with young women that have suffered abuse. Similar to ‘Joker’, Batman doesn’t have to appear or even be mentioned, as long as it shows just how viscous and cruel the clown prince treats his princess along with a final scene of Harleen ultimately rejecting her tormentor to proudly leave the looney-tune life of Harley behind her. Maybe then Harley will become less of a sex symbol for teenage boys and more an empowering role model for women.
Before any of those ideas can even make it to the drawing board though, we need to see how good ‘Joker’ is when it hits mainstream cinemas this October. Will you be going to see it? Or do you prefer it when comic book movies interconnect and share the same universe?