Joker is probably going to make over a billion dollars worldwide. It’s a success far beyond Warner Bros.’ highest hopes, and one way or another, they’re going to figure out how to make a sequel even though the film was originally just supposed to be this standalone thing. Now it looks like director Todd Phillips is entertaining the idea of directing Joker 2, but only under certain conditions.
Speaking to The L.A. Times, Phillips says he doesn’t want to do it just because it’s there, but if there’s a good idea at the center of the film that has “thematic resonance”, then they could proceed:
“It couldn’t just be this wild and crazy movie about the ‘Clown Prince of Crime.’ It would have to have some thematic resonance in a similar way that this does. Because I think that’s ultimately why the movie connected, it’s what’s going on underneath. So many movies are about the spark, and this is about the powder. If you could capture that again in a real way, that would be interesting.”
The funny thing here is that the first Joker has no thematic resonance. It has the illusion of being about something without actually making a statement. It just shouts, “Mental Illness!” and “Income Inequality!” without exploring what any of that actually means or following those ideas to a conclusion. The notion that they would do a sequel only if it has the “thematic resonance” of the first is comical because all it means is ripping a few headlines and social issues and clumsily inserting them into a plot where Joaquin Phoenix plays a Batman villain.
But Phillips is right that if it worked once, it will probably work again, and that’s what Warner Bros. is counting on. The question now becomes how much they’ll pay Phillips to get him back and if there’s any amount of money or scripting that could woo back Phoenix for what was supposed to be a one-off.