Warning: Potential SPOILERS for the Joker origin movie
The Joker Origin Movie may go deeper than fans expect, combining the story that inspired the villain with some Goodfellas drama. We have a theory that suggests Todd Phillips may be shaping the original novel The Man Who Laughs into a modern crime story, depicting a new Brooklyn origin for The Joker, long before the caped crusader ever showed up.
And believe us, when taking a closer look at the rumored cast of this Joker movie, all the clues and talent attached finally started to make sense. Not to mention confirming that the filmmakers are staying true to the origins of the DC supervillain. Just... not the way fans will expect.
A fake-out Joker himself would appreciate - and the main reason this Joker movie just got a LOT more interesting.
- This Page: What We Know Of the Joker Origin Movie's Plot
- Page 2: Is Joker's Origin Movie Adapting 'The Man Who Laughs'?
What We Know Of the Joker Origin Movie's Plot
We would urge very reader to get the details on the rumored characters of the Joker origin movie for themselves, including the legendary actor (and famed Scorsese collaborator) Robert De Niro's apparent DC movie role. But for now, we'll outline the main players - offered with only speculation into how these described characters relate to star Joaquin Phoenix's lead.
The breakdown begins with 'Penny,' a Caucasian woman aged old enough to play Phoenix's mother who has fallen from her younger, more beautiful days (and now lives with "her grown son who just moved back home"). Then there's 'Sophie Dumond,' a hardened, single mother who sees how the lower classes struggle beneath the wealthy. Theorized to be a love interest for Phoenix's lead, as well.
Toss in a pair of detectives from a New York/Gotham City setting, and some colorful working class players, and a story takes shape. If not a story... then at least a tone: lower-class characters from the streets of Gotham, or New York. But the small details used to set the tone may hint at a story already seen on film.
UPDATE: According to THR, the studio describes the film as "exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale." Which definitely falls in line with our theory.
The Man Who Laughs: Joker's Actual Secret Origin
The most devoted comic book historians will have heard of The Man Who Laughs, a 1928 film based on Victor Hugo's French novel L'Homme qui rit. While not as well-regarded as Hugo's Les Misérables, the film adaptation earned its place in history for inspiring a wave of horror films... and inspiring the visual design of The Joker, thanks to its star Conrad Veidt.
Set in 17th-Century England, the story follows the young boy Gwynplaine, disfigured and tossed aside, as he grows to adulthood alongside fellow orphan Dea. Once grown and courted by a wealthy admirer in King James's court, the truth comes out - revealing the grinning hero's true parentage and sudden ascent to a seat of power.
Comic fans may know the film and character best for his oversized dentures and grin, confirmed to have informed the original design of DC's Joker. And examining the story, themes, and colorful characters of The Man Who Laughs, the story that launched Batman's greatest enemy may now be the story turned to for the Joker origin movie..
Is The Joker Origin Really The Man Who Laughs?
So, are we suggesting Joaquin Phoenix's version of The Joker is a 17th-Century orphan? Definitely not... even if there weren't already reports that the Joker origin movie is set in 1980s America. But the structure for a compelling, unexpected, and potentially stunning crime film does exist. Simply swap out the royal families of England for the crime families of Gotham (either the fictional version, or New York City).
The true story of The Man Who Laughs is eventually revealed in flashbacks, beginning with a rivalry between two men (King James II and the Marquis of Corleone). The king makes his move first, taking out the Marquis, and having his son kidnapped and disfigured to remove his threat as well. After surviving through the darkest, dirtiest realities of the lowest classes, the grinning hero rises.
Here's where things get interesting for telling that story with The Joker in the lead role. Once the truth comes out - that the boy is actually the son and heir to his father's forces - he's given the wealth and power owed him... but he doesn't want it. When he decries the injustice of what the wealthy perpetrate upon the weak and poor, his words bring only laughter.
The Man Who Laughs makes a strong argument, but the grin carved into his face means it plays as only a joke. Turning away from wealth and status, he returns to the streets that shaped him.
Why This Is Actually A Great Idea
While this potential adaptation of the original Man Who Laughs story is pure speculation on our part, it certainly helps connect the dots. On the surface, the shifting of such a story - a forgotten boy rising to command his father's criminal empire, only to shatter it - onto the streets of 1980s New York instantly makes Martin Scorsese's involvement as producer a perfect fit.
By extension, the surprising placement of The Hangover director Todd Phillips - also a Brooklyn native - at the helm of a Joker origin movie is less shocking, given comparisons between his tale of up-and-coming hustlers in War Dogs and Scorsese's own Goodfellas. Toss in writer Scott Silver (The Mod Squad, 8 Mile, The Fighter) on screenplay duties, and the story of a nobody's rise to power on the mean streets is the obvious result.
Fans may skim the plot and characters of The Man Who Laughs, be it Hugo's original novel or subsequent adaptations to stage and screen, and see the most likely role for Robert De Niro as the King James surrogate (or a similarly ruthless leader of Gotham's organized crime families). But with Joker's possible mother also being cast for her younger days, a more direct relationship is possible.
Most importantly, the prospect of Phillips, Silver, and Scorsese all looking to cut through the comic book lore and adapt the story that first inspired The Joker is far more interesting than just "another Joker movie." Not to mention a more standalone, character-driven, and obviously Batman-less film - just as it is reported to be.
This theory would also be harder for comic enthusiasts to dismiss on the grounds that "Joker shouldn't HAVE an origin story," since one could argue it's hardly adapting the character of The Joker at all (rather, the character upon which even he was based). But the film would also pack a moral and ethical punch that the 'villain' is rarely afforded.
The Joker is not a 'hero' any more than Scorsese's criminal protagonists are, but he may have a case. Live through horrors that Gotham's wealthiest inflict without a second glance, and get only laughs when showing it to their faces? Well, the audience might just be on Joker's side if he decided to burn it all down.
Now, we just have to wait and see if this is truly the plan for the Joker origin movie... and whether or not it should be.