IF YOU can have two Jokers in a deck of playing cards, why can’t you have two Jokers in play at your Hollywood table?
That seems to be the thinking at Warner Bros./DC, as Todd Phillips’s stand-alone Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime, continues to make high-profile casting choices.
On Monday, Deadline reported that Alec Baldwin had joined Phillips’s project, apparently to play Batman’s dad, Thomas Wayne. That announcement follows the film’s casting of Robert De Niro, Marc Maron and Zazie Beetz.
And that news comes amid DC’s reported plans to also bring back Jared Leto’s Joker, last seen in “Suicide Squad,” for a film in which the villain would be reunited with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
So instead of being wary that dueling Joker movies (starring J-named actors) might hasten Joker fatigue, WB/DC seems to be dealing heavily in the belief that it should follow the logic of comic-book lines.
That is to say: Why not give fans a chance to dip into a wealth of parallel-universe, out-of-continuity DC movies — a la the “Elseworlds” comics?
Beginning at least since the massive success of 2012’s “The Avengers,” superhero fans began to wonder and weigh how DC would assemble its own team-up films within a cinematic universe.
Yet given the underwhelming receptions of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” — sub-billion-dollar letdowns that might hasten Ben Affleck’s exit from the Batman role — perhaps DC isn’t looking to Disney/Marvel’s decade-long template of massive success.
Instead, the creatives and suits at WB/DC might be studying the Disney/Lucasfilm model more closely.
That’s because Star Wars has found commercial success with its interstitial stand-alone films since Disney rebooted George Lucas’s galaxy in 2015.
If DC is going to gamble a bit, then why not try the Multiverse approach — at a fraction of the cost? Phillips’s Joker film, due to be released in the fall of 2019, has a reported production budget of $55 million — far less than that of “Suicide Squad” ($175 million) and “Batman v Superman” ($250 million). The “Justice League” budget, with reshoots, was rumored to be even higher.
The most successful DCEU movie has been “Wonder Woman,” which won positive reviews and grossed $822 million on a $150 million production budget. The sequel is due out in the fall of 2019, as well.
In other words: The cinematic Wonder Woman has been at her best narratively when fighting crime free of the stultifying Batman and Superman.
And that points to what could be a better betting strategy for WB/DC: Instead of going all in each year at Hollywood’s biggest craps tables, why not wander over to a range of smaller-stakes games?
After all, more cinematic games in play just means more Jokers are wild.