The surprise announcement of a solo movie starring Jared Leto's version of the Joker raises a lot of questions about where the clown prince of crime's film fits into the DC Extended Universe. Leto first took on the role in 2016's Suicide Squad, which was a huge financial success, but received middling reviews and was just as polarizing as the other non-Wonder Woman DCEU entries. No aspect of the film was as divisive as Leto's Joker; taking up the mantle of Batman's greatest enemy after the late Heath Ledger was never going to be an easy task, but introducing him as a fairly minor presence in Suicide Squad was a baffling choice. The Joker really didn't even have a purpose in the main Enchantress plot, but was there to serve Harley Quinn's (Margot Robbie) character development, largely through flashbacks. Harley ended up being Suicide Squad's breakout character, and most proposed plans for the DCEU Joker's future are tied to her.

News that an unrelated, Martin Scorsese produced Joker solo film - which may star Joaquin Phoenix - was in development only muddied the waters further. Development on Leto's own solo movie at least shows that Warner Bros. believes in that version of the character and are looking to expand on it in some unconventional ways, but what exactly are those ways? The DCEU is in a state of creative flux at the moment, with more films in development than seemingly could ever really be produced, and some obviously contradicting the existence of others. We're attempting to look at the Joker film through that lens, and answer how it may end up fitting into the larger framework of DC's ever changing shared cinematic universe.

Will Batman Be In It?

There are a lot of unusual aspects to the DCEU, but perhaps the most unconventional choice was to begin it with a version of Batman who's already been fighting crime in Gotham for 20 years, making Batman something of a superhero senior citizen compared to the other, more conventionally aged DC heroes. We don't know a lot of specific details about this Batman's past, but we do know he's tangled with the Joker plenty of times - and a graffitied Robin costume in a display case in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice suggests the two have already gone through some of the darker chapters of their storied comic book rivalry. And yet the pair haven't really had an onscreen encounter yet; Batman intercepts the Joker and Harley at the beginning of Suicide Squad, but the Joker escapes before there's any real interaction between the two.

Related: All 6 Joker Movies DC Has In Development, Explained

It seems highly unlikely that first confrontation would take place in a Joker solo film. At the moment, it's not even a sure thing who will be playing Batman when next we see him - though the rumor mill suggests Ben Affleck is currently leaning towards returning to the role. If Batman were to play any significant role in the film, it essentially becomes a Batman movie instead of a Joker movie. The ostensible point of a Joker solo film would be exploring the character in a new way, unmoored from the usual tropes and characters he works with. Adding Batman to that equation would make the movie pointless.

Is Harley Quinn In It?

Suicide Squad made Harley Quinn a household name. Robbie's dynamic performance as the Joker's lover/sidekick was one of the few things about the movie most people could agree on. Considering the Joker really doesn't have any sort of established supporting cast of his own beyond Harley, it would be easy to assume she'd play a role in his solo film.

But this a case where the ballooning slate of DCEU films in development would seem to undercut common sense. Not only is Harley already slated to be in Suicide Squad 2, Birds of Prey, and Gotham City Sirens, she's supposedly supposed to star alongside her beloved puddin' in a separate Joker vs. Harley film. By all accounts, the Joker solo film is not the Joker/Harley film, so unless that project has fallen through - and we've had no indications it has - Harley showing up for the Joker's independent outing wouldn't make much sense.

Page 2: Suicide Squad 2 and The Batman Movie

Does It Connect To Suicide Squad 2?

Despite the fact that the Joker was a surprisingly minor presence in Suicide Squad, it's been confirmed Leto will be returning for the sequel. That movie ended with Joker busting Harley out of prison, so if he's playing a role in the film, it's probably not as a member of Task Force X himself. Perhaps the sequel's producers will end up doing what many people thought was going to happen with the first film and make Joker the Squad's primary antagonist - with a deeply conflicted Harley by his side.

Suicide Squad 2 has been in development much longer than this proposed Joker film, so the events of the former would likely inform the latter. We still don't know enough about Suicide Squad 2 to say for sure, but if Harley ultimately sided with Deadshot and friends over the Joker, that would leave an opening for a truly unhinged, Harley-less Joker romp.

Related: Suicide Squad 2: Every Update You Need To Know

Is He The Hero, Villain, Or Anti-Hero?

The notion of the Joker starring in his own movie is jarring for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the most obvious is that he's an absolutely remorseless monster. He's one of fictions greatest villains, but that doesn't necessarily make him a prime candidate to be the protagonist of a movie. Indeed, part of the Joker's dark charm is that he's inherently unknowable, more a violent force of nature than a fully realized human being. Maybe the Scorsese-produced version will be enough of a reimagining to play outside of those parameters, but we've seen enough of Leto's Joker to know he's the traditional, soulless ghoul iteration.

So how do you make a movie that revolves around that guy? One way would be to pit him against a character so overwhelming evil and destructive that he ends up as a reluctant hero out of self-interest. It would also be possible to lean into the fact that past iterations of the character have shown an ability to "evolve" into wildly different personalities, some of them bordering on innocuous, if not exactly heroic. Among the many obstacles this movie faces, perhaps its greatest is making the Joker a functional protagonist that audiences would want to root for, and would require some seriously impressive trickery by the writers to make work.

Does This Mean The Batman Won't Use Him?

Of the DCEU films that are almost certainly going to get made, the biggest question mark is The Batman. After the Caped Crusader's decidedly mixed reception in Batman V Superman and Justice League, no one is quite sure what we're going to get with Matt Reeves' solo film. The writer/director has said that while the film will take place within the DCEU, it will be largely unconnected from the other DCEU films. Batman V Superman and Justice League happen on such a massive, superpowered scale that to mostly ignore them makes a certain amount of sense for what will likely be a grittier, street level film, but Suicide Squad invokes so much of Batman's world that it would be close to impossible to not touch on it, certainly not if it intends to use the Joker.

Related: What's Going On With Ben Affleck's Batman?

But so far there have been no indications that the Joker will play a role in Reeves' film. To be fair, there are no indications of anyone playing any role in The Batman yet - not even Ben Affleck. But even the rumor mill suggests the likes of the Penguin and the Riddler are more likely than the Joker. It's possible Leto's interpretation of the character simply doesn't fit with what Reeves has planned, as he's described his desire to tell a smaller scale, neo-noir detective story. A Joker solo movie could be something of a consolation prize, or maybe he's simply being saved for a sequel down the road, but a Joker who never has a proper face off with Batman would be a very strange development.


There are some genuinely important questions to be asked about this movie, and many of them ask the same fundamental question: Why does this exist? It's entirely possible Warner Bros. really does think this version of the character is strong enough to carry his own film. Leto is certainly a talented enough actor to make it work if he's surrounded with the right creative team. And yet there's the inescapable feeling that this exists because Warner Bros. aren't exactly sure what to do with the character, so they're trying a dozen different things and seeing which one sticks. Of all the options on the table, a Joker solo film is probably the riskiest, and if it's going to work, Warner Bros. will have to get it exactly right.

More: The Batman: Every Update You Need to Know

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