How 'Joker' Deconstructs What A Comic Book Movie Can Be

All the buzz on Joker since the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival has been praising director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix for crafting a movie that digs deeper and goes darker than any other comic book adaptation that came before it. At the very least, DC Comics has never produced a movie that tackles one of their major signature characters in such an unsettling fashion.

We were on hand during a Q&A following an early screening of Joker and Todd Phillips discussed his approach to making a comic book movie different than what audiences have become accustomed to seeing.

Phillips didn't necessarily set out to change comic book movies, but he did see this as an opportunity to tell a comic book story in a new way by possibly deconstructing them. The directed explained, "I just thought it was an interesting way to tell a story. I think it's [an] interesting new approach to the comic book world."

Previously we had heard that Phillips wasn't pulling anything from DC Comics to help tell this story, but the director wanted to set the record straight on that front. He said:

"A lot of you guys have probably reprinted something I said in Empire where I was misquoted. I'm not gonna complain. I like the writer. He wrote a great piece. Where I said, we didn't take anything from the comic book world. It's actually not what I said. What I said was we didn't take anything from one particular comic. We kind of picked and chose what we liked from the kind of 80-year canon of Joker. You say, 'Oh that's interesting. He was a standup comic." We kind of like pulled a few things that we liked."

When Phillips mentioned that he wasn't using anything from DC Comics, that did worry some fans. But the positive buzz from the festival circuit seems to have changed their tune. But at the same time, it seems like this movie could have been told without being set in the world of Gotham City. Why did this movie need to be about The Joker? Phillips explained his reasoning:

"Could it have been called Arthur and it just be about a clown? Maybe. I just thought there's a new way to tell a comic book movie and maybe I'm wrong. But [I thought] let's do it as a character study. I guess a big part of what interested me about it more than making a movie called Arthur was to kind of deconstruct the comic book movie a little bit. That was part of what was exciting about it to me."

One could argue that comic book movies might become even more mature in the wake of Joker, though that seems inherently insulting to some of the movies that came before it. Perhaps we're just looking at a new evolution of the comic book movie that can more firmly plant itself in a different genre instead of being a typical superhero movie with vague elements of other genres. Fans can judge for themselves if the movie takes comic book movies in an exciting new direction when Joker arrives in theaters on October 4, 2019.