“Joker 2019” by Kaexi Ng is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
All previous blogs have been about Disney and Marvel’s success at the box office. But for the first time this year another studio has been successful. Warner Brothers has stolen the spotlight from Disney with their newest film, Joker (Phillips, 2019). The film may be about a maniacal clown, but it has been no joke at the box office. The most important and fascinating aspect of Joker is that it isn’t even a part of the DC Cinematic Universe. It is a completely standalone film, yet it succeeded at the box office. How is it possible that a superhero film outside of a cinematic universe succeeds?
Up to the weekend of October 26, Joker had already grossed more than Batman vs Superman (Snyder, 2016) worldwide at $571 million vs $543 million. The main takeaway from this film is that Warner Brothers should not focus on trying to create a cinematic universe to rival Marvel. Warner Bros, and every other studio for that matter, should focus on making unique, creative movies and perhaps telling good stories.
Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips both have some star power, but nowhere near the name recognition of Ben Affleck or Zack Snyder. The success of Joker was not dependent on stars like most movies. It has been successful because of an established character and controversial promotional material. The film’s promotional material, whether intentionally or not, sparked great controversy around the US. People feared that it would inspire mass shootings at screenings of the film. Of course the film did not openly advocate for this but it received a lot of press from the public outcry. Joaquin Phoenix left interviews because he didn’t like the lines of questioning about the film’s potential to incite violence. It may have been genuine anger from Phoenix, or a very successful and unethical PR tactic, but either way the film succeeded thanks to this.
Joker is the perfect example that shows it doesn’t take a huge budget to produce massive results. Joker only cost $70 million in comparison to Batman vs Superman which cost a reported $250 million. Controversies surrounding the content in Joker helped cement it as a chaotic and disruptive film in the oversaturated superhero genre. If there is anything to learn from this, it is that making a good and successful movie is possible for studios other than Disney, and that cinematic universes are not a necessity to succeed at the box office.
Box Office: ‘Joker’ Passes ‘Batman,’ ‘Superman Returns,’ Nears ‘Justice League’ With $550 Million. https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbean/2019/10/15/box-office-joker-passes-batman-superman-returns-nears-justice-league-with-550-million/#1fae3a991e30. Accessed 30 Oct. 2019.
Joaquin Phoenix Walks Out of Joker Interview (Report) | PEOPLE.Com. https://people.com/movies/joaquin-phoenix-leaves-interview-after-being-asked-if-joker-will-inspire-violence-report/. Accessed 30 Oct. 2019.
“Joker.” Box Office Mojo, https://bit.ly/2PxLpgP Accessed 30 Oct. 2019.