Brainiac On Banjo 042: This Joke’s On You

I just concluded a scientifically-ridiculous survey and the results are staggering. I still have not met a single person who is looking forward to WarnerMedia’s new Joker movie.

Reportedly, this latest incarnation of our favorite playing card-based villain has nothing to do with any other Joker in any version of the character in any manifestation of any of the overpopulated DCUs. The authenticity of that remains to be not seen. But it appears this DC-logoed movie has less in common with the comic book legend about to endure its 80th birthday than it does with James Bond playing baccarat at the Casino Royale.

That’s okay. The most overused character since Wolverine (who, I believe, showed up in a Planet Terry story arc), I can’t recognize The Joker from one bloated comic book story to the next. Great character, dumb character, confusing character… well, I never met the guy. And seeing that for the past 29 years Warners has been disinterested in making a Batman movie worthy of the cellulose acetate upon which it’s memorialized, I really don’t care. I’ve given up.

When people ask me which is my favorite Batman movie, I respond The Lego Batman Movie. About half of the people who know me think I’m kidding, but the other half knows better. It is my favorite Batman movie. For one thing, it has better character development than any Batflick since Michael Keaton stopped buying toys.

Bats has shown up in lots of Lego animated product. The movie – to which there may or may not be a sequel – starred Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Finnes, and Zack Galifisnskis as the Joker. It was made for $80 million, and it took in $312 million – a swell return on investment that doesn’t even take into consideration the enhanced sale of Lego Batman bricks. The plot is about Bats learning to lighten up.

This week, DC/WB/Lego will be debuting their latest direct-to-DVD effort, Batman – Family Matters, at the annual San Diego Hollywood clusterfuck. They employ actors who are well-established in the DC television and DVD projects: Troy Baker, Will Friedle, Tara Strong and Alyson Stoner, among others. No, the Joker doesn’t show up for this one, at least not the Joker per se. However, Billy Batson (Zach Callison) has several very nice scenes. The plot is about Bats learning to lighten up.

The D2DVD is almost as enjoyable as the 2017 theatrical release. It’s funny, clever, has a decent plot, is at least as faithful to the comics as any other DC/WB effort, and somewhere along the way it makes some nice points about how families work… and don’t work.

This new Joker movie is set at a time when Thomas Wayne has yet to be killed, and therefore Martha Wayne’s pearls remain intact and Bruce Wayne is still a rich brat. The movie is simply called “Joker,” so I guess the Big Bad has yet to earn his definite article. In its place is a whole new origin in which Arthur Fleck is a crappy comedian whose sense of humor is enhanced by his massively transformative experience.

Robert De Niro stars in this movie along with Joaquin Phoenix, but, evidently, De Niro’s not playing Rupert Pupkin. That’s always a shame.

Honestly, I hope I’m wrong and Joker turns out to be the super villain version of Gone With The Wind. I’d gladly praise a movie that restores some integrity and gravitas to the Batman franchise, even though Batman isn’t in this one.

I’m afraid that if this movie is anywhere near as lame as it seems and it does poorly at the box office, it would make a real Batman movie – a good one, if the Lords and Ladies of Irony smile upon us – all the less likely to happen in my lifetime. Robert Pattinson’s turn under the cowl is set for June 25, 2021. But The Flash sequel to Justice League has been postponed with ritualistic regularity, so I’m hoping for the best.

Perhaps the new one will be retitled “Twilight of The Batman.”