Batgirl out, Joker in.
In the same week that DC cans the already finished film Batgirl, a brand new teaser trailer has been released by none other than Lady Gaga for the sequel to Todd Phillip’s 2019 Joker, titled Joker: Folie À Deux.
We even get a release date to boot: October 4, 2024.
It’s interesting timing, as it feels like flirting with the widow at the funeral, but it seems that Warner Bros. and DC are sticking to their guns when it comes to a new creative strategy – out with the interconnected DCEU (DC Extended Universe) plans and in with the darker and more ‘grounded’ properties.
Check out the teaser below:
For several weeks, rumours had been circulating that Lady Gaga would be joining Joaquin Phoenix (who has up until now said he wasn’t interested in making sequels to any of his films) for the Joker sequel.
The pop icon, whose career on screen has skyrocketed ever since her Golden Globe winning turns in American Horror Story: Hotel and A Star Is Born, ended the speculation by posting the teaser. The video includes silhouettes of the Joker and her character – now all but confirmed as Harley Quinn – dancing together to an instrumental version of ‘Cheek to Cheek’, a song Gaga covered alongside Tony Bennett.
It reveals nothing of the plot, even if online speculation suggests that the film’s action could take place inside Arkham Asylum, where we left the titular character at the end of the first film. There are also strong rumours, potentially bolstered by the choice of song in the teaser, that Joker: Folie À Deux could be a musical or at least have strong musical elements to it.
The strongest narrative indicator, however, remains the title. The French term “folie à deux” – literally: “folly of two” – refers to shared psychosis or SDD (Shared Delusional Disorder), a rare syndrome in which two individuals share delusions or hallucinations.
So, a phantasmagorical team up between Joker and his new ally Harley Quinn, who will share his delusions…
Call it a bad romance.
Do we need another Joker film?
The idea to greenlight a sequel to Joker was something of a no-brainer for Warner Bros.
The film became one of the most successful comic-book movies ever, as well as the first R-rated movie to gross $1.07 billion worldwide.
It even nabbed the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival where it premiered, and went on to earn 11 Oscar nominations, with Joaquin Phoenix winning his first Oscar for his performance as the Jester of Genocide.
That said, do we need more?
The first film was originally conceived as a stand-alone story with no connection to the DCEU, and it doesn’t really need a continuation. The open-ended finale only works if it remains ambiguous and a continuation could severely undermine Joker’s themes. There’s also a singular joy in watching a film that bucks the persistent Hollywood trend of franchising a property and being content with telling a self-contained story.
Then there’s the case of the cinematically ubiquitous Clown Prince of Crime.
From Cesar Romero to Heath Ledger via Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto’s much-maligned interpretation and the completely unnecessary blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Barry Keoghan in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, the Caped Crusader’s arch nemesis has never lacked screen time. Another film focusing on the character is bordering on overkill, no matter how captivating Phoenix was in 2019.
Adding to this Joker fatigue is the potential red flag of director Todd Phillips’ return. Having previously directed Old School and the Hangover trilogy, the filmmaker is back behind the camera and working from a script he co-wrote with Joker screenwriter Scott Silver.
Phillips’ direction the first time around, though solid, resumed itself to: “What if I plonked the Joker in The King of Comedy and aped Martin Scorsese throughout instead of leaving a distinct directorial mark of my own?”
The film arguably worked so well because Phillips leaned hard on Phoenix’s committed lead performance, Lawrence Sher’s evocative cinematography, and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s darkly mournful and foreboding cello-heavy score, with his direction never rising to their levels.
A less anonymous directorial mark could have elevated the finished product, as well as trusting the audience enough to forego spelling out certain revelations, and his return to the director’s chair might not be what this sequel needs.
Let’s put a smile on that face
Bellyaching aside, the thought of having Gaga play opposite Phoenix is tantalizing to say the least. And if those musical rumours turn out to be true, then this new direction not only breaks the comic-book film template but could promise an ambitious and singular sequel worth watching.
What’s sure at this point is that _Batgirl_’s cancellation is a direct consequence of Warner Bros.’s poor handling of the DCEU, and now, executives are clearly banking on reliable titles. For them, Joker and The Batman represent their golden ticket within a midstream strategy overhaul: properties worth expanding in order to make DC films a more distinctive alternative to Disney’s Marvel.
The fact that Joker: Folie À Deux has an October release date also says plenty about their ambitions for the film. The timing suggests a potential fall festival slot in Venice, with all the Oscar hopes that decry from that awards launchpad.
Maybe Lady Gaga will finally get the Oscar she tried so hard to nab with _House of Gucci_… A folly worth entertaining.