Nobody ever thought the Joker, of all characters, would be getting his own solo film, but here we are, over a billion dollars and a few Academy Awards later. Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips proved everyone wrong. No matter what you think about the film, it was a unique project set within a sea of other comic book media that has flooded the mainstream and become a staple in pop culture. Arthur Fleck’s story seemingly ended, so the thought that a sequel could exist much less should exist, seemed crazy. However, that’s what’s happening and the latest word on the project could turn out to be the best possible situation for a sequel.
The most important part of a sequel to Joker, a rather complete, and self-contained film, is that it really needs something to set it apart from anything that has come before it. Phillips and DC have to make this special and something super aberrant; to do so, they have to go out of the box. This makes a musical the absolute best path for the sequel; it’s something entirely unexpected and puts the project on a whole new playing field. The first film was a deep character study into who Arthur Fleck was, and what led him down this path to becoming the man who toppled a city in mere few hours. A musical is the opportunity to explore who this new Arthur Fleck is, presumably becoming, solely, the Joker from now on.
There were brief moments where we’d seen Arthur break out into random spurts of dance, experiencing moments of freedom for himself, after feeling so contained and restrained his entire life. The musical numbers could act as true expressions of who he is and who he has become; it’s an idea that is so far out of the box that could allow Phoenix to kick his performance into the next gear, and bring out some of that musical talent that we saw in Walk The Line.
Perhaps the most interesting avenue that this musical concept could tackle is the romance between Joker and Harley Quinn. The news that Lady Gaga is in talks to potentially portray Harley Quinn in the film, a character who has risen to even higher levels of popularity via Margot Robbie’s portrayal, was as surprising as the news that the sequel was in development. The film could tackle the relationship between the characters that the DCEU had only scratched. The sequel could explore the blossoming relationship between Joker and Harley Quinn, the early moments where their love seemed so perfect. Their relationship, of course, is one of the most toxic and abusive in the DC Universe, but the film can actually focus on the romanticization of the situation between the two by tackling that early love through Joker’s manipulation of Quinzel in helping him escape, and him turning her into Harley Quinn. Imagine it as something akin to the “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” number from Birds of Prey, where Harley imagines her interrogation as a dance number, just on a larger scale throughout the sequel. It can be a play on the classic rom-com, a massive course change from the first film, portraying a “perfect romance” which in reality is just as awful as expected.
Developing Joker: Folie À Deux as a musical is a creative and brilliant pivot from the first film, moving it into a completely new atmosphere and ensuring it doesn’t have to worry too much about riding the tails of the first film. It’s a fun idea that if executed well could be yet another unique, and fresh entry into the ever-expanding world of comic book media.