It isn’t even debatable JOKER — directed by Todd Phillips with Joaquin Phoenix starring in the title role — is total gamechanger for the comic book movie genre.
It’s a FACT.
Already a winner of various industry awards, JOKER — which has made over a billion dollars worldwide — it is the most nominated film in this year’s Academy Awards/Oscar race with 11 total.
Awards and nominations aside, the fact that JOKER performed at the box office the way it did as an R-rated movie damn near boggles the mind. In fact, it is the first R-rated film to cross the billion-dollar mark.
Yes, JOKER isn’t the first R-rated comic book movie. We’ve seen DEADPOOL and it’s sequel tagged with an R and do very well, and as we speak, the R-rated BIRDS OF PREY is in theaters. So I think it’s safe to say that studios are more willing to take chances with movies based on comic books and superheroes — and supervillains — going forward.
What about a Batman film?
Yes, both JOKER and BIRDS OF PREY can be labeled “Batman Films” — or at least “Batman Family Films” — as the main characters of each are from the world of Batman. But I’m talking about a full-on, solo Batman movie.
ALSO READ: BIRDS OF PREY Review by Bill “Jett” Ramey
Is Warner Bros. ready to go that route with their #1 IP? Furthermore, is the general audience ready for it as well?
The success of JOKER says that the answer to those questions is yes.
Frankly, a PG-13 rating gives a filmmaker a lot of leeways in this day and age. So the question is whether or not an R-rating is really needed in a Batman film proper. To make it “better,” does a Batman movie need…
To be sexed-up with, well, sex and nudity?
To have gratuitous violence, blood, and gore?
To be filled with F-bombs and over-the-top cursing?
To be tremendously psychologically intense and disturbing?
To show drug abuse?
There really is no definitive answer to any of those questions.
On one hand, I’d argue that a filmmaker can include a lot, if not all, of those things in a film without crossing the line into an R-rating. I would also argue that some of those things such as sex/nudity, F-bombs, and drug abuse (and I’m not talking about weed) aren’t needed to make a Batman movie better.
On the other, Batman exists in a very violent world, so perhaps R-rated violence and psychological intensity would fit a movie like Matt Reeves’ THE BATMAN that’s said to be grounded and gritty world. If films like CHINATOWN and SE7EN are influences (allegedly 😉 ) on THE BATMAN, then perhaps an R-rating would be appropriate.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that yes, there’s a chance that THE BATMAN will be R-rated — but I wouldn’t bet a paycheck (in MONOPOLY money, of course) that it’s going to happen. And to be honest, I personally prefer a PG-13 rating; as I previously stated, a filmmaker can — for lack of a better term — “get away” with a lot with a PG-13 rating.
Warner Bros. giving the green light for JOKER and allowing it to be made shows that they are willing to take some risks with their DC Comics properties. And with JOKER being such a critical and financial success, the risk is much lower.
Of course, you can’t have Happy Meals and toys for a Batman film that’s rated R. Let’s trust that tail doesn’t wag the dog any longer, be it with a PG-13 or R rated movie. – Bill “Jett” Ramey