EDITORIAL: Can One-Shot Standalone Movies Like THE JOKER Still Work?

EDITORIAL: Can One-Shot Standalone Movies Like THE JOKER Still Work?

EDITORIAL: Can One-Shot Standalone Movies Like THE JOKER Still Work?

DC Films is seemingly putting more focus on standalone movies, starting with a Todd Phillips-directed Joker origin film. Can this be the studio's new formula for successful comic book adaptations? Read on!

In the age of cinematic universes and failed attempts at cinematic universes, standalone superhero films face some inherent challenges. Universe building is the priority of most studios with major properties, and as we’ve seen several times, it’s not hard for filmmakers and studios to get ahead of themselves.
 
Warner Bros. has been blamed for trying to accelerate their universe by overstuffing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with too many characters, plotlines and set up that doesn’t pay off. However, the studio seems to be open to trying some different approaches to superhero filmmaking. 
 
Hopefully, not restricting themselves with the rules of a cinematic universe will lead to better DC movies. The first standalone film is pretty intriguing, with Martin Scorsese producing a Joker movie. Since the most recent rumors about the film portraying the Joker as a failed comedian who turns to crime, the first thing to come to mind is Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke
 
This one-shot comic is one of the character’s most memorable stories, as it provides what many believe is a definitive origin for the Joker. Of course, the Clown Prince of Crime himself says that sometimes he remembers it one way, and sometimes another, so there is still some ambiguity there. 
 
That’s why many fans think giving the Joker a definitive on-screen origin story is a mistake. While this was done in Batman (1989), taking this same approach in a time where filmmakers are generally more willing to embrace the comics would surprising. 
 
However, what might make this work is the fact that the Todd Phillips-directed film is meant to be a standalone movie. Batman may not even be in the movie, so this is a good opportunity to try something a bit unconventional with the character.
 
Releasing one-shot, non-canonical movies at a time where cinematic universes are the norm could be refreshing. Of course, this concept isn’t just limited to superhero movies. 

 
When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released, there was some confusion among casual moviegoers as to where the movie fit into the franchise’s timeline. However, this didn’t stop the film from becoming a massive hit, proving the power of the Star Wars brand. 
 
Logan, probably the best standalone superhero movie so far, seemed like it could have been a sequel due to the convoluted X-Men timeline. Many fans walked into Logan thinking that it was a sequel to the last film in the series, but the movie was so good that its place in X-Men canon was an afterthought.
 
Of course, quality is the most important factor. We all know that if the Joker movie sucks, then the fact that it’s a standalone won’t feel all the special. However, this also gives filmmakers a bit of a security blanket, as they don’t have to worry about one bad movie ruining the series’ canon if the story is self-contained.
 
If DC is going to move forward with more standalone movies, should they be concerned about whether or not people understand what these movies are? Possibly, but depending on the tone and directorial style, the standalones could be visibly different from the DCEU movies.
 
Going this direction also opens up the possibility of doing direct adaptations of iconic comic book storylines—something DC was reportedly thinking about doing with Superman: Red Son.
 
With the news of Ava DuVernay directing a New Gods movie that isn’t connected to the DCEU, it seems like the studio is less concerned about building a universe than they were just a few years ago. While many different franchises have tried to replicate Marvel’s success by building cinematic universes of their own, focusing on standalone stories could be the right way to go for DC.
 
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