OPINION: A chance at redemption for DC movies

The comic company has tried to re-launch its movie franchise countless times—with “Joker” they might finally get it right


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The trailer for the new Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix was released on April 3, showcasing the Joker’s origin story and hopefully kicking off a top-tier film DC superhero movie after some disastrous mishaps in recent years.

Even though most of DC’s films have been something of a financial success, the films overall have been a disappointing mess.

DC’s cinematic forays have ranged from shockingly bad like “Suicide Squad” and “Batman v. Superman” to plainly competent like “Wonder Woman” and, to an extent, “Aquaman.”

When the final chapter of DC’s universe is written, these early stumbles at creating a wider cinematic universe are what will keep fans cringing.

“I truly believe that DC just cared about trying to beat Marvel. They just rushed out these films hoping to start off big,” said local comic fan Angel Estrada, 24. The one Marvel movie element that DC should have copied is the patience Marvel showed in slowly establishing a shared universe between their films. When the first Iron Man movie ended, we were treated to the one and only tease of a wider universe being established with Nick Fury informing Tony Stark that there are more superheroes out there.

By the second installment of DC’s Extended Universe, “Batman v. Superman” attempted to quickly establish Batman and his relationships with other characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Darkseid, the villain of the coming Justice League movie and the protagonists of the future films.

“Especially Batman vs Superman, it’s like the director was making a Batman v. Superman movie but halfway through someone was like ‘Hold on. What if this was a Justice League movie instead,’” said Charlie Saez, a Wright College sophomore, in an email interview. “I’ve read a lot of DC comics and it felt like they were stuffing a lot of arch’s [sic] into one movie when they should have stuck to one or two.”

“Suicide Squad” followed “Batman v. Superman,” and fans closely watched the film because needed to wash away the sins of its predecessor. The trailer also included the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which made it even cooler.

Behind the scenes, director David Ayer was told by the studio that test audiences wanted more comedy in the movie, resulting in reshoots that, according to The Deadline, cost the studio $22 million. That Bohemian Rhapsody allusion earlier was more important than initially thought, because the studio also felt it was very cool, resulting in the studio hiring the trailer company that produced said trailer to edit the film.

As a result, the film came out as a tonal mess, with shots lasting as long as a blink of the eye and a lack of continuity from scene to scene. When the movie is awash in neon one moment and the color of dirty toilet water the next, it’s in bad shape.

It’s obvious that the initial issues with many of these films were individual screw-ups and shoddy production choices. But the Joker trailer, in its polished magnificence, highlighted the real problem. DC Films were not really telling stories, they were selling us a product. I’d really like to stress that I’m not tackling this issue as a comic book purist or someone who wishes the movies were more similar to established cartoons. I don’t want to tear down DC or suggest that Marvel Studios produces high art.


Annalisa Baranowski | The DePaulia

But with Marvel films, fans have a sense that everything is occurring in the same universe. It’s all tonally consistent across the board with straightforward stories. Obviously, Marvel is also in the business of selling, but they did not put the cart before the horse.

You don’t have to be attached to the comics and the lore of these characters to have the same thoughts. The disconnect has not been about a lack of fan service.

“Although I like Marvel comics better, DC’s characters and stories can be awesome too,” Estrada said. “DC is about gods trying to make sense of the world, while Marvel is about the world trying to be gods.”

It seems like every film after “Batman v. Superman” appeared to promise that it would right the ship, but the Joker film is on track to do not only that, but to be a great film in its own right.

What the Joker trailer has displayed though is a tonal consistency. Phoenix’s performance not only appears top-notch, but also defined.

While most of the internet will go scene by scene, dissecting every easter-egg and prediction to hype audiences up, there’s a simpler route to finding personal hype.

What has convinced me of this film’s potential for success is that writer and director of the film Todd Phillips was finally able to sit down, write and direct a story. Though less compelling to some than others, I believe that creative factor can’t be denied. Without the heavy-handed studio interference we’ve seen in previous films, “Joker” is set to be a solid and exciting experience.

“Joker” is set to be released on Oct. 4, and it’s safe to say to audiences that we can expect an intriguing psychological thriller. The success of the film will be dependent on solid writing and performances, but the stars appear to aligning nicely.