Nowadays, if a film does well it seems within two minutes there’s a sequel announced. This year’s psychological supervillain drama Joker has not been spared this increasingly commonplace studio bullshit. Earlier this week The Hollywood Reporter published a story stating that the original director, Todd Phillips, was in talks to return for a second Joker film. However, Phillips has since clarified that this report is in fact false. That isn’t to say Joaquin Phoenix won’t make another outing as Arthur Fleck, but as of yet Phillips himself is not involved and nothing is confirmed.
It brings into question whether or not anybody actual wants these sequels. Joker isn’t even out of cinemas yet and rumours of a ‘Joker 2’ have already begun, but this doesn’t seem to strike anybody as odd. We as a society are so used to immediate gratification and 24/7 binge-watching, that the idea that the next installment is already on the way comes as no surprise. It seems that if your film does well you must produce a follow-up that tops the first. Have we forgotten that sometimes the reason the film is so good is because they are a standalone, contained story?
Personally Joker is not one of my favourite movies, but I did think the ambiguous ending is why it is so successful. Adding continuity would force Phillips to address whether or not this is a definitive origin for Batman’s nemesis, a point he has so far been very cagey about. Sometimes the story being told simply does not need a sequel. Its success comes from its self-contained nature. Similarly, other films ranging from the excellent Baby Driver (2017) to the comedic likes of The Mask (1994) have been given sequels purely because studio heads saw dollar signs not because the audience have asked for one. Most of the time these are unsuccessful and hated by an audience who loved the original: just look at Mean Girls 2 (2011). I can’t help but feel the art which these directors create is tainted by the ever mounting pressure for franchises, particularly within the world of comic book adaptations. Whilst a Joker sequel is still just an unconfirmed rumour, it highlights a worrying trend of sequels for the sake of sequels. At least let the joke land before you move onto the next.
Words by Danni Scott