“Joker 2” Drama Turns Nasty – What’s Going On?

Yikes. The movie that has been sparking universal controversy and uproar since its release in early October is still stirring up trouble, this time leading to a feud between two of the biggest entertainment news trades in Hollywood – quite appropriate for a movie about the Clown Prince of Crime.

nytimes.com

This time, the inciting incident was an article by The Hollywood Reporter, which claimed that The Joker director Todd Phillips is looking to team up with star Joaquin Phoenix once again to film a sequel to the R-rated villain origin story which grossed over a billion dollars at the box office and is gaining slow traction in awards season races. Phillips and Phoenix had both previously discussed not wanting to do a sequel because it would ruin their artistic vision – that seems to have changed when the film crossed into the billion-dollar club, landing Phillips himself a paycheck somewhere in the range of $100 million. THR added that on October 7th, mere days after Joker opened in theaters, Phillips met with Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich and pitched an idea that Emmerich rejected: that Phillips should be given the ability to develop origin movies for an entire rogue’s gallery of classic DC Comics villains (THR specifically referenced the dictatorial Darkseid and power-hungry businessman Lex Luthor as possible examples). While Phillips’ idea appears to have been a bit too extreme for the studio, it is said he walked away from the meeting with the rights to “at least one other DC story”. All this seems pretty standard so far: it’s unsurprising that Phillips would want to direct a sequel to the smash hit, and it’s not even all that surprising that he thinks he’s entitled to take over the entire DC villain roster.

But soon after, Deadline fired back with a vicious piece that used the words “great click bait” to refer to the Hollywood Reporter’s earlier story. According to their sources, no Joker sequel is being discussed at this stage. And that’s not all. I quote: “the linchpin of today’s THR story – that a week after Joker’s opening, Phillips met with Warner Bros film chief Toby Emmerich to pitch a portfolio of DC character origin stories – is as flat false as earlier stories that Martin Scorsese contemplated directing the first Joker”.

Okay, this isn’t really relevant to the rest of the story, but this is what Martin Scorsese had to say about those “flat as false” rumors, in an interview with Variety earlier this month: “[I] thought about it a lot over the past four years…I decided that I didn’t have the time to do it”. Marty went on to complain about how he didn’t want to direct it because he didn’t feel comfortable making a movie about a comic book character, etc, etc, you’ve heard all that before, I’m sure.

Leaving aside that glaring error in Deadline’s reporting, the lack of professionalism from the respected trade is shocking and dismaying – is this the malevolent work of the Joker at play, turning Hollywood news agencies against each other? Is it an act of pettiness on Deadline’s part, because THR broke the story first? The bigger, more important question is: which one is actually right? Is Todd Phillips going to be placed in charge of the DC’s villains department or not? Will we have to endure several more years of Joker-induced chaos?

Not long after Deadline’s article came out, poor little Variety showed up with their own piece, which is basically being ignored by everybody: in it, they say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: Phillips has met with Toby Emmerich to discuss a sequel to Joker, but no other DC villain origin films are being planned, and Phillips would be too busy directing Joker 2 (if true) to direct those other films, anyway.

As of right now, that’s all I have to say about this strangely chaotic story. But I’m posing the question to you, dear readers: what’s really going on at the DC right now, and who’s directing what? Would you be interested in a Joker sequel? Would you be interested in origin stories for other DC villains? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell Join “The Batman”.

Okay, we’re doing this again, aren’t we?

Not too long ago, I spoke about how bizarre it was that an actor like Jonah Hill could be circling the role of The Riddler in Matt Reeves’ upcoming DCEU origin story, The Batman, which will follow a young Dark Knight as he navigates a Gotham City seething with villainy and corruption. Hill, who was far more suited to the role of The Penguin, eventually walked away from the project entirely, both due to that and the fact that he was asking for significantly more money than Warner Brothers was willing to pay for him to play a character they didn’t even want him to play.

independent.co.uk

And now we’re kind of in the same situation: just now, news broke that Andy Serkis, famed motion-capture performer and director of Sony’s Venom 2, will be joining the cast of The Batman (despite, you know, directing Sony’s Venom 2 at the same time) as Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth. Fans had long hoped that Serkis would exploit his friendship with director Matt Reeves (the two worked together on the recent Planet Of The Apes movies) in order to win a role in the DC film, so this isn’t disappointing news by any means. Andy Serkis is always a win. But it is kind of surprising, in light of the other casting announcement that came out mere minutes later.

Colin Farrell, the handsome Irish actor known for his work in films such as Saving Mr. Banks and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, has landed the role of Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin in DC lore. To be clear, I’m not complaining about this casting choice, but if I had to choose someone to play the stout, eccentric Gentleman of Crime, it would not be Colin Farrell: in fact, if I had to choose an actor to fit that role perfectly, it would be somebody a bit older, with a crazy glint in their eye, somebody who could rival the incredible performance of Danny DeVito in the same role in Batman Returns – actually, it would probably be Andy Serkis. Whereas the taller, fine-featured, soft-spoken Farrell would be a perfect fit for the role of Alfred Pennyworth.

But as we’re beginning to expect with this movie, it’s the other way around.

Farrell’s casting, in particular, is noteworthy because (a) he’s another ridiculously good-looking addition to this already bizarrely beautiful cast, and (b) see above. The Penguin has never been portrayed as a handsome man, and, in fact, much of his origin story revolves around him being the exact opposite: bullied relentlessly for his obesity and shuffling gait, the young Oswald Cobblepot turned to his pet birds for friendship as a child, and became an avid student of ornithology, eventually adopting bird-themes into his villainous style. Reeves is obviously going in the opposite direction with this out-of-the-box casting – and, while I find it intriguing, I can’t say I abhor the idea of Colin Farrell donning Penguin’s signature top hat, monocle and umbrella while wreaking havoc on the streets of Gotham. It just makes me wonder whether Matt Reeves will reveal Gotham to be a stylish, trendy modern city more in line with today’s New York City. Maybe it’s time we moved past Gotham’s traditional representation as a depressingly gritty underworld of criminal activity, seething with corruption and pollution. Margot Robbie’s Birds Of Prey movie almost seems to be leaning in that direction already with its bright neon color palette and fresh, alluring style, but it’s too early to tell yet if she got to that idea first, before Reeves.

Farrell and Serkis will join Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright in The Batman, which is slated to release in 2021.

So what do you think of the idea of Andy Serkis as Alfred and Colin Farrell as The Penguin? Should the actors have been swapped? How would you feel about a new take on Gotham? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Zoe Kravitz Cast In “The Batman”!

Fresh off the summer’s HBO drama Big Little Lies, and a string of successes and misfires, actress Zoe Kravitz is joining the cast of Matt Reeves’ The Batman, in the role of Selina Kyle, the Catwoman.

The antiheroine burglar has been played by a number of legendary actresses before Kravitz, including Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry: but Kravitz has an advantage in that she’s actually played the character once before, albeit in animated form in The Lego Batman Movie. There are no details yet on whether this version of the character will be more villain or hero, or whether she will be in a romantic relationship with Robert Pattinson’s Batman. The Batman has been rumored to star many of Batman’s notorious rogues, so it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if Catwoman was portrayed as a full-out villain – but while I think Kravitz can play that, and play it well, I know she can also be emotionally complex, in a raw and fascinating way. And Catwoman has such a gripping story, this is a real chance for Kravitz to show off her acting chops to a broader audience that hasn’t seen her work on Big Little Lies: the antithesis to Batman, the Catwoman is a persona that Selina Kyle takes on to escape her horrific life in the dark underbelly of Gotham City, a persona that first develops when Kyle is tied in a sack and nearly drowned while still a child; the same punishment that awaited cats accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages.

Kravitz beat out a number of high-profile contenders for the role, all of whom were women of color (as is she). Rumored candidates included Lupita Nyong’o and Tessa Thompson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Logan Browning. Any of these remarkable women would have been excellent choices to don the Catwoman costume and roam the streets of Gotham, but Kravitz is especially perfect: for one thing, she doesn’t have commitments to a rival studio, as Nyong’o and Thompson would. Kravitz has also worked with Warner Brothers before – as much as people may hate Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, almost everybody seemed to like Kravitz’ portrayal of the haunted heiress Leta Lestrange. She’s not a big draw at the box-office, though, and her most recent project, the second season of Big Little Lies, didn’t go over well with fans; but while none of that is strictly her fault, Kravitz is definitely going to have to work harder than usual to ensure that her portrayal of the beloved character of Catwoman is faithful to the source material, while still fresh and unique.

So what do you think of this casting, and who do you expect to be cast next? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Birds Of Prey” Official Trailer!

Harley Quinn is back and better than ever in the first trailer for Birds Of Prey, which sees her and a few of the other emancipated women of Gotham getting together to wreak havoc on the city with glamour, glitter and gunfights. DCEU fans have been eagerly anticipating this first official trailer for weeks, and now, finally, we have it. So does it live up to expectations?

I say, yes. The movie looks absolutely crazy, but in the best way possible: irreverent, reckless, and irresponsible, Margot Robbie’s take on the character of Harley Quinn is a far cry (a canary cry? bad Birds of Prey pun, I know) from her comics counterpart, one of Batman’s most dangerous and sinister villains – but she’s possibly better. And without any Batman in sight, Quinn is free to roam through Gotham on roller-skates, robbing, vandalizing and basically having a good time – she compares her crime spree to a sleepover party at one point in the trailer, and even suggests that she and her henchwomen should order pizza.

In fact, Harley Quinn’s only companions these days are two very large hyenas, and the other women in the Birds of Prey team, who get about ten seconds of screentime each in this trailer – though that’s more coverage than they’ve gotten in the film’s promotional material, which has focused exclusively on Harley herself. Black Canary, Huntress, Renee Montoya and Cassandra Cain, the other members of the group, look a bit more like extra cannon fodder for fight scenes, as does, rather surprisingly, the villain Black Mask (played by Ewan McGregor!). So while the full title of this movie is (*clears throat*) Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn, you could probably lop off the first part of that hefty moniker without much issue. This is Harley’s world, and, for better or worse, the supporting cast is just passing through it.

Nevertheless, the fight scenes, in which the other Birds of Prey will probably have their few and far-between moments to shine, look spectacular and dazzlingly unique. We’ve got chase scenes through shopping centers, roller-derby action sequences, and one peculiar but beautifully shot dance hall fight in which Margot Robbie gets to channel her inner Marilyn Monroe for a musical number. There’s humor, wit, and empowerment. Harley, armed with her oversized mallet and psychotic impulses, is officially back in business, and ready to take down the patriarchy.

And you know what? I’m kind of here for it.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Jonah Hill (Maybe) Cast In “The Batman”!

With the focus all on Bruce Wayne’s nemesis Joker for the past few weeks, with critics and early audiences chattering excitedly about controversy and Oscar drama, it’s understandable why plenty of people have probably forgotten about, you know, Bruce Wayne. But yes, indeed, there is a new Batman movie coming out of DC Studios, and the headlines it’s been stirring up today might turn the attention away from Joker for just a little while (not enough to make a dent in that film’s box-office tracking, though).

The Matt Reeves-directed Batman prequel, simply entitled The Batman, already caused quite a rift in the DCEU fandom when it cast Robert Pattinson in the lead role, as the franchise’s newest Dark Knight. But since then, there’s been little to no news about the film, and much of what has been rumored seems “too good to be true”. Daisy Ridley was rumored at one point to be playing Batgirl; then it was Andy Serkis as a possible candidate for The Penguin; Eddie Redmayne lobbying for the role of The Riddler; Vanessa Hudgens wanting to play Catwoman; Josh Gad campaigning for The Penguin; just last night Zendaya made unintentional waves in the Batman fandom by wearing green to the Emmys, which, according to some, was a nod to Poison Ivy; only a few weeks ago it was Rihanna who accidentally got herself labeled as Poison Ivy by over-enthusiastic theorists; so on and so on. The list of A-list actors who want to be in The Batman to accompany Pattinson on his journey back to stardom is incredibly long, but so far none of these are more than rumors or fan-speculation. And as for the actual cast that is being assembled, well, it’s a lot more low-key. Matt Reeves has already made it clear he’s going for a much more grounded approach to the superhero than has been previously attempted, so maybe he just doesn’t want big, flashy superstars distracting from his vision. Whatever his reasoning, he’s just picked out two actors for lead roles – and, well, they might not be Rihanna, but they’re nothing to sneeze at, either.

First, Westworld‘s Jeffrey Wright has apparently been cast to play Commissioner Jim Gordon, Gotham City detective, Batman ally, and, most importantly, the father of Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl. Wright’s casting suggests that a woman of color could be up for that coveted role: considering that Batgirl, in the comics, happens to be a white woman with red hair, this will undoubtedly spark more of the usual uproar about how “Hollywood hates redheads”, a statement that is still laughably wrong no matter how many times it gets brought up. However Reeves decides to interpret Barbara, though, the casting of her father is a win for Wright, who’s got a decent, but relatively low-profile resume: he’s definitely looking to change that, scoring roles in the next James Bond film, as well as Marvel’s What If? streaming show.

Then, there’s the big headline: Jonah Hill, a two-time Oscar nominee who has mostly flown under the radar with mainstream audiences, is in early talks to play a villain in The Batman, but neither he nor Warner Brothers can decide which one. Apparently Matt Reeves is intent on nabbing the Moneyball star, and Hill is intent on starring in this movie; it’s just a matter of figuring out which of Gotham’s legendary rogues is best suited for the dramatic actor. According to other trades, the conversation has been narrowed down to a choice between The Penguin and The Riddler, both iconic characters; but “it is unclear if the two sides will be able to find common ground”. I can’t imagine how difficult this choice could possibly be (if you’re going to cast Jonah Hill in your Batman movie, you cast him as The Penguin, there is no room for doubt), but all the reports are unanimous in saying that the delay has nothing to do with dealmaking, but everything to do with pure indecision. Personally, Hill as Penguin and Eddie Redmayne as Riddler sounds like a perfect scenario, and if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be hesitating, but Reeves and Warner Brothers probably know what they’re doing. Emphasis on probably

The Batman is expected to include a large, possibly unprecedented number of villains, but no names are yet confirmed. So I turn the question to you: who would you like to see Jonah Hill play in the Caped Crusader’s solo movie? Share your thoughts in the comments below!