As DC has revealed some of its cards of late, they've all been coming up Joker, and it's almost hard to keep track of the growing ubiquity of the Crown Prince of Crime. Just a week ago, news came out that Jared Leto's Joker, first featured in Suicide Squad, would be getting his own standalone film in the DCEU. This is in addition to The Hangover director Todd Phillips' Joker origin film that may star Joaquin Phoenix. There is still a lot of mystery about the latter project, but we now know that the Joker origin film will have a low budget of around $55 million.
A budget of $55 million is a mere fraction of the price tag of the DCEU films thus far and most superhero movies in general, which often cost well over $100 million. This would essentially make the supervillain film about Batman's greatest foe a mid-budget movie. That is interesting and actually quite telling about what DC's goals and expectations are with this film and perhaps other standalone comic book titles. The $55 million budget allows for this potentially risky film to have a lower bar for success. Without having to make up a $150+ million budget, Warner Bros. and DC can take this gamble and see how well it works without a great expenditure. If it makes $100 million opening weekend, then it is a smash success. This is definitely a low-risk play that could pay off huge should the film hit with audiences. The low budget is also telling on the creative side of things.
With only a $55 million price tag, Todd Phillips' movie should be able to take some real creative risks, which in turn may make this movie more compelling to fans and general audiences, thus giving it a greater potential upside at the box office. Along with the budget, THR also reports that the Joker film, scripted by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, may be launched under a new label to demarcate it as separate from the DCEU shared universe of films. The new label could be branded with a name like "DC Dark" or "DC Black."
This kind of seems like a Deadpool-esque play by DC. Fox's Deadpool had a relatively low budget of under $100 million and it was able to go all out creatively, and the financial reward for doing so was massive. We've heard about how dark the Joker origin film might be and perhaps it might be rated R. Joker is a magnetic character, and while there is some danger in revealing too much about him, a gritty, dark crime tale about a character that demands it is exactly the kind of thing that will differentiate the Joker origin film from the rest of DC and the comic movie universe at large. That's the other thing about the Joker; he isn't Braniac or Darkseid or the type of character that needs a huge budget with crazy special effects. Throw some good makeup on Joaquin Phoenix and you're good to go.
While the amount of Joker appearances slated in the future does seem a bit like overkill, at least for me, this budget is a positive sign that DC will be trying something different with a smaller amount of money that could pay huge dividends. Todd Phillips' Joker origin movie is expected to begin shooting, with Joaquin Phoenix to star, this fall. Keep an eye on our guide for all the latest news about DC on the big screen.