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Why DC Won't Make A Joker Movie

Will the DC universe ever be ready for a good (and by good, we mean terrifying) laugh?

Warner Bros. is cranking up development on a number of new DC movies, with everything from a "women of the DC universe"-style project to Cyborg and Aquaman features in various stages of development. The Joker has been around for decades, and is arguably among the most recognizable (and frightening) characters in all of popular culture. He's been played by everyone from Jack Nicholson to Mark Hamill over the years, and the latest version by Jared Leto sent fans into a tizzy (for a few reasons).

But will the Clown Prince of Crime ever get his shot at solo glory? At this point, we don't really think so. And there are more than a few reasons why.

Jared Leto's Joker wasn't well received

The casting of Jared Leto as the new DCEU Joker carried a lot of weight with it, increased by the tragic passing of former Joker actor Heath Ledger, and the sheer popularity of the character itself. Sadly, reaction was mixed when it came to Leto's performance in Suicide Squad. He played the character with a weird, manic approach that felt a bit too over the top—which is saying something for this character. It was certainly different, but when compared to Ledger's terrifying take, it still fell short. You can check out a smattering of reactions to his casting here, and as you can see, there doesn't seem to be a huge fan movement clamoring to see more of what Leto's Joker has to offer.

The DCEU version isn't all that compelling as a character

At his best, the Joker has typically been portrayed as chaos in human form—a figure acting out of self-interest and a thirst for anarchy, whose only goal is to essentially watch the world burn. But in Suicide Squad we meet a version of the character who (apparently) owns a club, and drives around being chased by Batman in sports cars. By recasting him as a gangster, even a wild and crazy one, they've turned his unpredictable insanity into something more pedestrian. Just think of the semantics of it all: to actually run a successful club, Leto's Joker would have to at least be dependable enough to manage a business, or consistently work with people who can keep a club running. In Suicide Squad we never get a sense of his vision for Gotham, or why he even exists in the first place.

Leto was reportedly intolerable on set

Despite the mixed reaction to his performance, and some frustration about how the character was handled, Leto has expressed interest in coming back again for a future DC movie—but that doesn't mean Warner Bros. (or the cast and crew) would actually want him back.

Leto is a Method actor, so when trying to get into the Joker's head, he practically terrorized his fellow Suicide Squad stars. He sent the cast a dead pig, and gave other cast members used condoms, live rats (co-star Margot Robbie kept hers as a pet, weirdly enough) and anal beads. The actor also skipped rehearsals to get more into character. He even freaked out director David Ayer a bit, with Ayer describing Leto's style as having to "give birth to himself" as the Joker for each take. Look, there's nothing wrong with Method acting, but reports from the set seem to indicate Leto went a few steps beyond that line—then sprinted a ways further.

They apparently have enough footage for a Joker movie, and didn't use it

Leto hasn't been shy about his disappointment when it comes to all the extra Joker footage apparently filmed for Suicide Squad, and when you realize how much landed on the cutting room floor, it's somewhat understandable. Leto has confirmed in interviews that there's "probably enough footage in this film for a Joker movie." The behind the scenes problems with this film were well-documented when it comes to editing, so it's not a shock to hear they have a lot of Leto footage in the can. But think about this: Leto is a name actor, and the Joker is a well-known character. Why wouldn't they have added more Joker to the final cut?

Probably because the stuff that was axed is as bad (or worse) than what made it into the film. The Joker subplot was largely unnecessary to the narrative as a whole in Suicide Squad, and his take on the character didn't really fit in this world. If they killed that much Leto footage, there's no reason to think the studio is dying to get a solo Joker movie off the ground.

It's notoriously hard to make a film with a true villain as the focus

There aren't a lot of movies that solely focus on a truly evil villain. The reason? It's pretty darn hard to pull off. Audiences typically look for something to root for in a film's protagonist, and even using Suicide Squad as an example, pretty much all these characters had at least a few redeemable qualities when the fate of the world was in the balance. But the Joker? He's pure evil, an agent of chaos, and one of Batman's greatest foes. If you tried to turn the Joker into an anti-hero, it would dilute the crazed badness that makes him so appealing in the first place. Could you imagine trying to get audiences to root for the guy who brutally beats Robin to death with a crowbar? It's a tough sell.

The Joker works best as a foil for Batman

In many interpretations, the Joker represents the other side of the coin when it comes to Batman. Bruce Wayne donned the cowl to clean up his city, but by upping the hero quotient in Gotham, he also opened the door to up the evil for villains. The two have sparred for decades, and all it takes is a cursory glance through Batman's catalog to realize the brunt of the best stories involve the Joker in some capacity. He's the perfect foil for Batman, and is the anarchic yin to Batman's rule-following yang. To that end, it'd be hard to tell a Joker story without Batman playing a role. It'd be even harder to focus the story on the Joker, with Batman serving as the villain (?) of a potential Joker-centric story. It'd be tough to get audiences on board to root against the Dark Knight.

DC already looks to be refocusing on other villains

When the Joker popped up in Suicide Squad, most fans assumed it would serve to set up a potential return in Ben Affleck's first solo Batman movie—but then Suicide Squad opened. Despite some solid box office success, Jared Leto's Joker was typically not listed in the "Good" column. We already know Deathstroke will apparently serve as the main villain in Affleck's Batman film, and Affleck has praised the character as someone he thinks his version of Batman can "match up with" very well. Warner Bros. obviously wants to take Affleck's first solo film in a different direction, and that looks like it'll mean baddies like Deathstroke are finally getting their time in the sun.

It'd make more sense to just do a Harley Quinn movie

Seriously, just get it done. We heard awhile back that Warner Bros. is developing a Suicide Squad spinoff focused on Harley Quinn (and apparently some other female DC characters from around the Bat-canon), and Margot Robbie's live-action take on the fan favorite was one of Suicide Squad's real highlights.

Robbie is a star, and Harley Quinn has a ton of angles left to explore. Unlike the Joker, she's hasn't already shown up on the big screen a half-dozen times. She's also a more relatable character overall, and her recent comics run offers a perfect template for how to build a story around the character. She still has edge, but can also work as an anti-hero. At most, make the Joker a supporting player. Harley has always flourished outside the Joker's shadow, and giving her a shot at the big screen would almost certainly have more upside than giving the Joker more screen time.

The origin story isn't really ripe for a blockbuster

DC has notoriously kept the Joker's origin story on the vague side, with the closest thing to a "canon" backstory coming in The Killing Joke graphic novel, which revealed his past as a man who loses his wife and gets roped into a would-be robbery that goes horribly wrong. It's a heartbreaking tale, but doesn't really fit the bill of a tentpole blockbuster (which is what Warner Bros. seems to be aiming for when it comes to the DC properties). It seems like the kind of story more at home on Fox's Gotham, not the big screen.