Movie Reviews

Joker 2 Has Already Beaten The DCEU In An Unexpected Way

Simply by merit of its concept (and the success of the first film), Joker: Folie à Deux has already secured one major triumph over the DCEU. The overwhelming popularity of Todd Phillips’ Joker is the perfect counterpoint to the failures of the DCEU. Where the DC franchise has been criticized as needlessly gritty and lacking in a great many ways, Joker was critically lauded, with Joaquin Phoenix picking up an Oscar for Best Actor for his work on the film. The differences between the two are many, but Phillips’ more artistic and grounded approach to the iconic villain’s story proved infinitely more successful than even the DCEU’s best-received titles.

With Joker‘s sequel, the intriguingly titled Joker: Folie à Deux, now officially on its way, the follow-up is set to continue the trend started by Phillips’ first DC movie. In something of a departure in tone from the first film, Joker 2 will be a musical and is set to introduce Harley Quinn into Phillips’ world. Joaquin Phoenix has been confirmed as reprising his role as Arthur Fleck from Joker, with Lady Gaga cast as Quinn. Each new detail revealed about Joker 2 makes it an even more enticing prospect, building anticipation for the film in a way that the DCEU rarely, if ever, achieves.

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From information released about the film, and the general tone of Joker, it’s clear that Joker 2 will beat the DCEU in many ways. However, perhaps the most significant and unexpected of these is that Joker 2 can be a better romantic story for the Joker and Harley Quinn than anything the DCEU has ever attempted. This is evidenced in part by the musical approach to the pair’s story, but also by Arthur Fleck’s characterization in Joker, making it clear that Joker: Folie à Deux has the potential to outshine previous iterations of its characters.

Interestingly, the DCEU’s Harley Quinn is, to date, one of the most storied versions of the character. After her initial introduction in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn spent a long time as little more than a supporting character to Joker, but her inclusion in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad elevated her to a whole new status. Despite the fact that the DCEU significantly contributed to Harley Quinn’s current popularity, the franchise has made her somewhat two-dimensional.

Joker 2 has the potential to build upon Harley Quinn’s story, especially the version presented by the DCEU. Joker 2‘s Arkham setting seems to indicate that the sequel will document Quinn’s original backstory, acting as the Joker’s psychiatrist before falling in love with him, which will provide much greater insight into the character. Instead of simply learning of their meeting, Joker 2 will tell the story directly, allowing the sequel to finally do justice to the story behind the now-iconic villain.

The DCEU’s approach to Harley Quinn’s relationship with the Joker was an interesting one, as it has only really documented its breakdown and Quinn branching out on her own. While this has worked well for the franchise, Joker 2 establishing a budding relationship between the two characters is critical: it’s an integral part of Quinn’s story, and capturing the essence of the pair’s shared ideals will prove to make Phillips’ version of the romance much better. Where the Joker in the DCEU is shown to mistreat Harley, this doesn’t need to be the case in Joker 2.

Related: Joker 2’s Teaser Trailer Is Already Destroying Your Musical Doubts

Though the villainous nature of the characters often contributes to their dysfunctional relationship, Joker 2 doesn’t need to examine that idea. Instead, the sequel can explore the nature of the pair’s mutual attraction, which not only serves as Harley Quinn’s origin story but also as a means of fully cementing the Joker’s villainous nature. If the Joker opts to use and manipulate Quinn (as he traditionally does in other versions), this would be a new development, and therefore would add much greater depth to both characters individually and as a couple – achieving something that the DCEU has repeatedly skirted around.

A big part of Joker‘s success was the complex characterization of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, and that will undoubtedly come into play in his relationship with Harley Quinn in Joker 2. Instead of simply being written as a straight-up villain, Arthur Fleck is a far more nuanced character. Instead of approaching the character as a simple villain, Fleck is written as a man living with an incredibly complex mental illness, with his final Joker turn coming after being faced with societal injustice and an existential crisis. This makes him a deeper and more interesting version of the iconic villain, and that’s something that should transfer over to his relationship with Harley Quinn.

Arthur’s treatment of women in Joker is actually distinctly respectful: both his mother and Sophie are shown to be important women in his life, and he treats them with care and attention. This implies that Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn will also be treated better by Arthur Fleck than Quinn is often treated by the Joker, making their romance seem all the more plausible in the process. However, Arthur’s complex mental illness will also clearly be a factor in Joker 2‘s story, and therefore it will undoubtedly play into the pair’s romance, too, making it far more complex than their traditional dynamic (and that’s actually perfect for Phillips’ sequel).

The DCEU version of Harley Quinn and the Joker’s love story is incredibly short and ill-defined. As Jared Leto’s Joker has only been used sparingly in the DCEU, the franchise has mostly told the story from Quinn’s perspective. However, Joker 2 will flip this idea, taking a more traditional approach to the story by framing its narrative with the experiences of Phoenix’s Joker. Arthur Fleck and Harley Quinn’s romance will surely look incredibly different from previous incarnations, and that’s the best way for Joker 2 to outshine the DCEU even further.

Related: How Joker 2 Can Avoid 1 Movie Musical Mistake

Joker 2 being a musical makes this seem all the more likely, as it will almost certainly feature Quinn and Fleck singing to and about one another. Taking a more colorful and whimsical approach to the story of Joker and Quinn’s romance is the perfect way to keep it feeling light and unhinged, doing justice to the characters while also exploring the origins of their long-standing relationship. As the DCEU has largely opted to keep its versions of Harley and the Joker apart, it won’t be hard for Joker: Folie à Deux to outdo the franchise’s romantic storyline.

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