CS Soapbox: How Jared Leto’s Joker Will Fit Into Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Jared Leto’s tattooed debut as the Joker in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations. What was supposed to be the DC Extended Universe’s definitive Clown Prince of Crime was discarded at the first sign of trouble. Blame this on Mr. J’s minimal screentime or Suicide Squad‘s creative confusion. Regardless, Leto’s Joker imploded along with the DCEU following Joss Whedon’s Justice League (2017). Ben Affleck’s Batman (‘Batfleck’) and his archnemesis were seemingly a thing of the past, until now.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be released as a 4-part series on HBO Max in 2021. The long-prophesized Snyder Cut will retcon Whedon’s work with new scenes, characters, and teases not seen in the theatrical cut. Equipped with a $70 million budget, The Snyder Cut is filming additional material and superimposing better CGI (ex. Steppenwolf’s design). In short, it’s a second chance for both the DCEU and characters like Batfleck and Leto’s Joker.
The first teaser for The Snyder Cut was released during August’s DC FanDome. In it, we are shown the Knightmare future similar to the one from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a Joker card fluttering ominously amid a post-apocalyptic landscape. Initially, this was thought to an Easter egg not unlike the (“HA HA HA Joke’s On You, Batman”) tagged Robin suit from Batman v Superman. However, the announcement that Leto will be reprising his role as the Joker changes everything. So, how will Let’s Joker fit into The Snyder Cut?
The closest Batfleck and the Joker have come to meeting face-to-face was in Suicide Squad‘s chase sequence. It’s heavily implied in that film, and Batman v Superman, that the pair have been going at for a while, with the Joker being responsible for the death of Dick Grayson AKA Robin. As touched upon in Batman v Superman, Batman’s experience with “freaks dressed like clowns” influences his jaded view of Superman. In the Knightmare future/vision, Batman leads a resistance again Superman’s totalitarian regime. By the time Superman “dies,” the caped crusader has come to see the Man of Steel in a less-threatening light.
Not only will Joker’s appearance allow Leto to evolve his Suicide Squad depiction, but it will (hopefully) improve Batman/Bruce Wayne’s story. The Batfleck we saw in Whedon’s cut exchanged bruting character development for corny one-liners. His character arc—from jaded vigilante to optimistic hero—was contrived and laughable. Throw in some scenes with the Joker, an agent of Batman’s disillusionment, along with Superman’s precarious sanity (upon revival/the death of Lois) and voila!
Batman and Joker will have actual scene(s) together in The Snyder Cut, albeit in that Knightmare future provoked by the Apokoliptian invaders (or a black-clad Superman). If Superman goes evil dictator/Earth is invaded, the Joker might align himself with Batman to defeat Superman or Darkseid (slatted to be the Snyder Cut’s main antagonist). There’s also the possibility that the Joker falls under the Anti-Life Equation (a form of mind control sought by Darkseid in the comics) or just works for the bad guys so he can keep doing psychotic things.
Still, we have to assume that the Joker’s appearance in The Snyder Cut is more than a cameo/gimmick. As anticipation for the miniseries continues to grow, Snyder continues adding elements to its story. On top of Leto’s Joker, Joe Manganiello is returning as Deathstroke and a Green Lantern appearance is HEAVILY rumored. It’s as if The Snyder Cut is looking to double down on everything the DCEU quasi-established. That said, what’s one of the best things to come out of the DCEU? Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
Before the aforementioned kibosh of the DCEU, a Joker solo film (starring Leto) was in the works. Warner Bros.’ redirection resulted in a newly-single Quinn, Birds of Prey, and Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar-winning Joker. It’s not a stretch to imagine The Snyder Cut incorporating Quinn in some way: Leto’s Joker, broken by the death of Quinn, seeks revenge on the evil force(s) that have ravaged Earth. This role-reversal would run parallel with the foreshadowed fall of Superman following the death of Lois Lane.
Let’s take this a step further. IF Batman and the Joker work together, the Joker could die in the Knightmare timeline. The sacrifice of his archenemy, the man who killed the Boy Wonder, could go a long way in redeeming Bruce’s grim outlook on crime-fighting. More than that, it would bring him back from the brink, reestablishing his “no-kill” policy (Batfleck’s biggest issue). If the Joker, as irredeemable as he is, can be a force for good, anyone can—life adapts new meaning for Bruce. While this timeline obviously wouldn’t stick, it would still serve as character development for Bruce. Plus, it would just be awesome to see.
The DCEU (or whatever it’s called now) already has multiple Batmen in play. The Flash is set to kick off the Multiverse and will feature both Michael Keaton’s Batman and Batfleck. The filmmakers have said that every iteration of a DC character is valid (from Adam West to Robert Pattinson). Pheonix is expected to return in a sequel to 2019’s Joker and Robert Pattinson’s The Batman trilogy will most likely introduce its psychopath with an affinity for face paint. If Leto’s reprisal proves popular, and Snyder’s vision for the DCEU lives on, there could not only be multiple timelines but multiple Jokers.