We're at risk of getting a little ahead of ourselves with this one, but we couldn't resist discussing the possibility. The hype has barely begun building for the Joaquin Phoenix-led' Joker' movie, which comes out next month. After that film is released, it will be almost a full two years before we see Robert Pattinson step into the batcape and give us the latest on-screen iteration of Batman. We know that 'Joker' is a standalone movie, and all reports suggest that 'The Batman' will also be a standalone movie. So why is it that we’re already wondering whether the two characters could meet?
Yin And Yang
Batman and the Joker are inextricably linked in the minds of comic book fans. As a character, the Joker was invented to be the perfect nemesis for Batman. The Caped Crusader has other enemies - the Riddler and Bane to name just two - but none of them are as a big a deal to Batman fans as the Joker. He is the Moriarty to Batman's Sherlock Holmes, and we'll never get bored of seeing the two on-screen together. That makes it a little odd to think we haven't seen it happen in a movie (other than a brief cameo for Batman in 'Suicide Squad') since 2008’s The Dark Knight.
While there's doubtless an audience who would love to see the two old enemies do battle again, we understand why movie studios have been hesitant. 'The Dark Knight' is considered to be close to cinematic perfection. Heath Ledger gave a performance as the Joker that defined his all-too-short career. The legacy of the film still lives on today - there's a mobile slots game based on 'The Dark Knight' which still enjoys thousands of plays per month. Other mobile slots have been based on Batman, but only one on a specific film. Mobile slots websites like Late Casino will only host themed slots if they know there's a paying audience for them - the fact that this one has been online for so long suggests that the brand value of the film is still high. Any new movie featuring the two characters together would inevitably be compared to it, and the risk of an unfavorable comparison would be high.
Taking the above into account, it's easy to understand why the more recent incarnations of Batman and the Joker haven't been called upon to do battle. One of the core reasons for the success of 'The Dark Knight' was the chemistry between Christian Bale's Batman and Ledger's Joker. Both actors completely owned the parts, and delivered masterful performances. Without any disrespect intended to the actors who replaced them in the roles, it was never likely they'd be able to recapture the magic.
In the case of Jared Leto, his Joker may never even have been intended to become part of the Batman universe. Leto's Joker was devised and written for the 'Suicide Squad' movie, and is a completely different animal than Ledger's edgy, brooding supervillain. He may even get to play the part again in sequels to 'Suicide Squad,' but Batman was a cameo in the 2016 film, and there was no conflict between the two. Even if Leto were to play the role again, he couldn't encounter that same version of Batman.
Ben Affleck's time as Batman has been short and unhappy. Some sections of comic book fandom never truly accepted him as Bruce Wayne's alter ego, and the more cartoonish version of the character he portrayed was a sharp contrast to Bale's interpretation. 'Batman vs. Superman' was critically panned even though it made money at the box office in 2016. 'Justice League' was similarly panned when it came out in 2017, and this time it didn't have the commercial success to make up for it. Affleck decided the part wasn't for him after only two films.
A Leto vs. Affleck Batman and Joker film would almost certainly have been a disaster. Phoenix vs. Pattinson seems to have greater potential - and from the sound of things, it might be on the cards.
Letting It Slip?
In a recent interview with Variety Magazine, Pattinson made what was either an innocuous slip, or a significant error. We don't know precisely what he said - because he asked the interviewer to retract the comment - but the interviewer was still able to provide some information. Pattinson apparently made an offhand comment about Phoenix and 'Joker' - which, by his own admission, he is yet to see - and then immediately froze and asked for the comment to be withdrawn. He then followed up with an offhand comment about not being used to worrying about spoilers, because he's generally only appeared in films based on books, or arthouse films where the plot is abstract.
Without the meat of the comment to go on, we might be clutching at straws, but it's obvious that whatever Pattinson said might be construed as a spoiler. It's also clear that the spoiler related to the 'Joker' movie, which he's yet to see. That means one of two things - either he's already familiar with the plot of the 'Joker' film because someone has explained it to him, or he's familiar with a detail of his own forthcoming film which might involve Phoenix's Joker.
If it's the latter, we might have reason to get excited. Because 'The Batman' is at such an early stage of pre-production, almost nothing is known about the plot. We do know, however, that 'Joker' is set in 1981. Could Pattinson's Batman be set in the same early-80s time period? If so, that would give us a whole new world to explore, and very firmly set the canon of the movies outside that which was established by the Christopher Nolan-led films. We love the idea of a slightly retro Batman film - 'Stranger Things' has made the 80s cool again, and a comparatively low-tech Batman would feel fresh and gritty.
Is their smoke to this fire, or has the magazine interview simply made too much out of a nothing comment? We might have to wait a year or two to find out. Let’s hope it’s worth it.