Tacking onto the already impressive amount of controversy that Joker has been able to generate, it would seem that Joaquin Phoenix has, with words alone, made sequel seem like it might not happen, at least not with him. As Patrick Philips of Looper shows however Phoenix isn’t fully against a sequel, but he’s not going to do it if he can’t see the worth in the script. In other words he’s going to take the money for a performance as long as he’s able to believe in the script, which is in its own way admirable but still kind of hard to get behind since so many actors say that each role is a job no matter how bad it gets. It’s easy to think that actors will turn down roles because they can’t see themselves being a part of a movie that makes them look ridiculous, but then you have to go back and realize that the same actors that have said this have starred in some seriously messed-up and ridiculous roles. Phoenix has always been able to retreat to the Indie movies after presenting himself in a major motion picture, and it might be that this is what we’ll see him do eventually. But for now it would seem that he’s not so much against a sequel as he’s letting people know that unless the script is as perfect as it can be and he feels it that the idea of another Joker movie might not happen, at least with him in the titular role.
Some folks, especially those that happened to like the movie, might argue that there’s no one else that could portray the role of Arthur Fleck, but if Phoenix isn’t up for the sequel and the studio really wants to go forward there’s a good chance that they’ll at least entertain the idea of bringing someone else in to fill the role that they figure can do just as good of a job. The problem there is that once someone puts in such a performance as Phoenix has evidently done it becomes nearly impossible for anyone else to fill their shoes, so to speak. Remember when Jared Leto was the Joker and others thought that no one could possibly top Heath Ledger? Well, that was pretty accurate and it still is since the Joker in The Dark Knight is still one of the most disturbing characters to ever be seen on the screen, and the reality of it is that unlike Arthur we don’t know a lot about him, but we do know that his character is magnetic in a way that he draws people to him, especially those that are ready to rally against any established system. Fleck was a guy that felt disenfranchised and abused by the system that so many people put so much stock into, but he had an origin, and as such he’s easier to figure out. Ledger’s character was darker, more unbalanced by far, and yet he’d already learned how to use such a thing to his advantage, whereas people had sit and watch Arthur become more and more unhinged as the world around him continued its bombardment.
Ever notice however that those that flip out the most and those that have the most violent reactions are pieces of the whole and don’t inspire as many people as you might think? If that was the case we’d be living in a worldwide version of the Old West and killings due to one movie or another wouldn’t be a constant worry, they’d be a guaranteed event that would eventually dismantle the society we know as of now. There are many reasons why Ledger’s Joker was better, and one of them happens to be that because he was kept within the movie, because his madness was contained in the boundaries of the cinematic experience, it was masterful, it was chaos on demand, it wasn’t art imitating life imitating art. Like it or not, the Aurora shooting wasn’t based around The Dark Knight, as the culprit wasn’t dressed like the Joker and he would have likely shot up another movie had it been showing. With Phoenix’s version however the false precedent had already been set and people were seriously worried that this movie was going to incite the riot that so many feared would happen. And what happened? NOTHING.
A guy might have laughed too hard and a little too long in a movie theater, but other than this the added security around certain theaters left cops doing nothing more than checking people they thought were suspicious and basically away from doing their real job. To think that a sequel might be in the works is kind of laughable really, and not in a pleasing manner. Honestly, let this be a one-off and call it a day. Josh Rottenberg of The Detroit News has more to say on this subject.