Just how much Joker is too much and when will DC shine the spotlight on its badass women?
It's impossible to predict, in the superhero blockbusters domain, exactly which movie would be a hit and which one would prove to be a box-office dud. Although a better half of the fandom would argue that Marvel Studios has already cracked a formula - backed by their history of hits - when it comes to delivering high-entertainment comic book adaptations, it still remains the success story of just one franchise.
A prominent and competing franchise, with a comics background older than Marvel's, is that of DC Entertainment's (a subsidiary of Warner Bros and home to iconic brands like DC, Vertigo, and MAD) which despite a prestigious run with its publishing unit is still struggling with finding a solid footing in the cinematic universe.
In defense of the (unofficially titled) DC Extended Universe, it is to be noted that the franchise is relatively young - DCEU kicked off in 2016 with 'Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice' while the seeds of Marvel Cinematic Universe were sown back in 2008 with the first Iron Man movie.
But that argument doesn't hold strong (and for long). It is because DC and Warner Bros have committed what many critics would call a strategic blunder, whether it's with the timing of the movies, introduction of new characters on the big screen or even when it comes to letting a creative take full charge of a project. Beginning with the incoherent placing of the Justice League ensemble movie, without establishing newcomers like Cyborg and The Flash in solo outings, to taking away the limelight from DC female stalwarts like Batgirl, Poison Ivy and so on (the only exception being Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman) - the franchise has shown a visible lack of foresight.
And unfortunately, even after an apparent reconfiguration, DCEU seems to be treading on the same path. The latest example of which is the continued focus on one overhyped and overexposed character, the Joker. A wide range of actors have portrayed the psychotic character on screen - beginning with Cesar Romero's iteration in 1966's 'Batman' series to Heath Ledger's version in 'The Dark Knight (2008) and the most recent one by actor Jared Leto in David Ayer's 'Suicide Squad' - with many becoming huge hits and even garnering critical acclaim.
However, as the milking of this iconic and fan-favorite character somehow seem to become dated, a natural concern has taken shape - just how much Joker is too much? Going by the report, at present, there are at least six movies under development, centered on the clown prince of crime.
Coming off the commercial success of 'Suicide Squad', Leto himself is rumored to star in five of them - the solo DCEU Joker movie (which he will be executive producing as well), the slated Joker-Harley Quinn spinoff, Cathy Yan-directed Birds of Prey, a possible Gotham City Siren movie, and Suicide Squad 2. Apart from the Oscar-winning actor's iteration under DCEU, a Joker origin movie is also at works with Joaquin Phoenix playing Batman's nemesis, Todd Phillips directing and Martin Scorsese executive producing.
Suddenly it seems Joker is the only character DC wants us to talk about. In a comic book-based franchise - where there's no dearth of interesting characters and comics literature - there's a visible lack of diversity when it comes to the big screen adaptations. Forget the positive figures and the here-to-save-the-day superheroes, DC's catalog of antagonists, particularly female ones, is so vast that the studio could churn out movies for the next tens years without running dry of content.
Wonder Woman - Warner Bross only massive superhero success since 2017 - is just the tip of the iceberg that is DC's reserve of comic characters. In fact, at the heart of the Patty Jenkins-directed movie lies the clue to the future of the women-centric franchise, in the form of Elena Anaya-played baddie Doctor Poison. A frightening chemist, whose creation (a gas) is capable of changing the tide of World War I, Doctor Poison's history runs deeper than the character's recent cinematic portrayal.
Debuting back in 1942’s Sensation Comics #2, Doctor Poison is known to be Diana's oldest nemesis. Though not as widely known as other supervillainesses like Cheetah or Circe, this war-time baddie has her own evil style, with her knack for cutting-edge toxins keeping her frighteningly relevant.
And Doctor Poison's villainy comes second only to Poison Ivy, another one from DC's roster of the femme fatales. Unlike the former though, Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley aka Poison Ivy uses her skills as a botanist and ecologist to mostly take care of the Earth. But there are days when this Batman villain can put someone to sleep, permanently, with her deadly kiss. Created in 1966 by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff, this character has wreaked havoc in many a comic series, and yet a cinematic adaptation of this badass villain remains due.
Another DC woman, whose big screen appearance has been in limbo forever, is Black Canary/Black Siren - a comics character which has been famously portrayed by Katie Cassidy in CW's Arrow. While TV has paid an ode to Black Canary's romantic storyline with regards to her long-time-friend-cum-love-interest Green Arrow (played by Stephen Amell in the show), the part of her comics arc that still remains uncharted territory is related to her girl gang - Birds of Prey. Along with Oracle and Huntress, Dinah Laurel Lance aka Black Canary has long fronted this gang, which soon might see a big screen outing thanks to efforts from Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie, herself.
To put it simply, DC, since its inception in 1934, has had a lot of time in hand to spin gripping characters capable of Machiavellian maneuvers. Whether it is the Green Lantern villainess Carol Ferris, Batman nemesis Talia al Ghul, Barbara Minerva aka Cheetah, Cheshire from the Teen Titans, Justice League baddie Superwoman, Emerald Empress, Madame Rogue or the recently-introduced Enchantress and Harley Quinn - the list is vast and varied. And there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be seeing these characters get their due limelight on the big screen.
So far, the only character who has made her presence felt amongst the plethora of DC villains in the cinematic universe is Robbie's Harley Quinn. An antagonist worth all the hype (thanks in part to the brilliance of the Suicide Squad actress), who single-handedly has been shepherding the psychotic brand of villainy and is very capable of ushering in a new age of women-centric anti-hero flicks in DCEU.
While a Joker, any day, is a lucrative box-office bait, maybe it's time the baton is passed on to the others as well - there is no way DC can go wrong by adding to their roster of villainesses. In fact, there is nothing a comic book loyalist wants more than seeing an intelligent, evil and outrageously attractive woman kick ass on screen.