Well, Joker has finally hit theaters after weeks of a confusing mix of controversy and praise filled the headlines. And, though some are still caught up in the controversy, the film mostly met expectations as an incredible, if dark comic book film. After Aquaman, Shazam!, now Joker, DC has its first full year of positively reviewed films. And for a lot of fans, this feels like a turning point for DC’s cinematic universe.
The studio seems poised to continue its streak of goodwill into 2020 with Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984. Though some semblance of continuity will remain through the next few DC projects, it seems like the company will dial back the shared universe aspect of its films following the success of Joker. Set in its own universe, the film proves that a solo superhero (or in this case villain) outing can still be successful without the need for massive, far-reaching crossovers or consequences. Obviously, both Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 still fall within established continuity. However, the former will serve as somewhat of a soft-reboot for many of the characters involved and the latter is happening in 1984 so, there likely won’t much crossover there.
More of an emphasis on solo outings and disconnected stories won’t be the only way DC sets itself apart from the competition moving forward though. Many of DC’s upcoming projects are set to skew more towards an adult audience. Both Birds of Prey and the upcoming Harley Quinn series will give us an R-rated look at the infamous psychiatrist turned psychopath. And they’ve already all but taken over the TV space with the mature-oriented Titans and Doom Patrol. So, with the overwhelming success of Joker, it’s likely that DC will lean into an adult audience even more. Especially because their chief competitor, Marvel, has all but turned their back on that audience.
Something else Marvel hasn’t done much of until recently that DC is jumping into headfirst is an almost blind trust in the creators in charge of their films. Todd Phillips’ crafted a Scorsese-esque film that attacks questions much tougher and darker than any superhero film before it. And, with creators such as Patty Jenkins, James Wan, Cathy Yan, Matt Reeves, James Gunn and Andy Muschietti on board for the next few films in the DCEU, the tones, looks, and writing of those films will all likely vary wildly. With that variation, DC will look to establish itself as the risk-taking creator-driven counterpart to Marvel’s “Everything’s Connected” way of doing things.
So overall, the plot of Joker doesn’t seem like it’ll have a far-reaching influence on the rest of the DC Extended Universe moving forward. But, the movie itself is pretty telling of where DC’s head is at when it comes to the DCEU. By choosing to embrace both a more mature story and a creator-driven, one-off model of storytelling DC is looking to differentiate itself from the competition in a way they haven’t in the past. For now, though, you can catch Joker in theaters. Birds of Prey releases on February 12th, 2020, followed by Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5th. Then, The Batman is slated for release June 25th, 2021 and James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad on August 6th. Aquaman 2 hits theaters on December 22nd, 2022.