For sophisticated characters like X-Men and Red Hood, Joaquin Phoenix's 'Joker' could kick off a new era of mature comic films

'Joker' is a refreshing change from the usual fare of superhero movies that tend to focus on the lighter side of things, mostly ignoring the more philosophical aspects of the characters in the comics. This movie could potentially be the first in a new era of serious, adult-oriented comic book films.


                            For sophisticated characters like X-Men and Red Hood, Joaquin Phoenix's 'Joker' could kick off a new era of mature comic films

DC is all set to release ‘The Hangover’ director Todd Phillips’s ‘Joker’ in October 2019. The movie will star Joaquin Phoenix (‘Gladiator’) as an unorthodox version of the Clown Prince of Crime, complete with garish make-up and creepy smile.

The R-rated movie, which will reportedly be taking a completely different path from the comics, is expected to give a more humanized take on the iconic character. This is a refreshing change from the usual fare of superhero movies that tend to focus on the lighter side of things and mostly ignore the more philosophical aspects of the characters in the comics. 

'Joker' could potentially be the first in a new era of serious, adult-oriented comic book films. Not everyone who loves superheroes is necessarily a child and adults aren't that averse to seeing a well-made comic book adaptation like 'Deadpool' or 'The Dark Knight'.

While ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and ‘Justice League’ may have failed to fulfill expectations, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of ‘Batman’ movies has already proven that darker comic book films do work, if done right. There are so many characters besides Batman who have the potential to impress a mature audience and not necessarily by going into R-rated territory.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne in 'The Dark Knight Rises' (IMDb)

Red Hood aka Jason Todd, the prodigal son of the Bat-family, is a perfect case in point. The character has gone through some of the most harrowing things imaginable, including his own death and those experiences have molded him into a brutal anti-hero who is willing to do all that is necessary for the greater good.

There’s really no way to spin Red Hood into a family-friendly hero like in ‘Shazam!’ or ‘Spider-Man’. But a mature story doesn’t necessarily have to be all about gratuitous violence either. There are other characters in DC’s stable, like Mister Miracle for example, whose stories are adult-oriented without resorting to an excess of blood and gore.

Tom King’s award-winning ‘Mister Miracle’ series took a more existential look at the character and saw him questioning everything about himself, including his reputation as the world’s greatest escape artist. The storyline is expected to be used in the upcoming ‘New Gods’ movie, which has King penning the script.

Roger Craig Smith as Mister Miracle in Justice League Action (2016). (IMDb)

Marvel isn’t short on serious stories and characters either. Kevin Feige is reportedly planning to take the ‘X-Men’ franchise in a whole new direction now that they are back under Marvel’s control.

While most of the old ‘X-Men’ movies focused on the glamorous and heroic side of things, Marvel’s merry mutants have so much potential for exploration. Mutants are essentially a metaphor for every oppressed group in the world, so it is somewhat unfortunate that their deeper political and cultural elements haven’t received enough attention on the screen.

The X-Men may be heroes but they are primarily activists fighting for a cause and it is this activism that is most prominently missing from the old 20th Century Fox movies, which did focus more on the supervillains and special effects than the lynchings and oppressive laws. Perhaps the Marvel Cinematic Universe could take some pointers from ‘Joker’ and consider telling stories not just for children, but for adults as well.  

‘Joker’ will arrive in theaters October 4.

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