Todd Phillips, director of the recent box office smash Joker, claims that the movie almost didn’t get made. Why? Because of possible concerns about merchandising.
Joker is the film that provides a somewhat different look at the backstory of Arthur Fleck—who became the Batman villain Joker. The plot of the film took a decidedly different and controversial spin on how the Joker character not only came to be but evolved as well.
In DC Comics, the Joker is “created” when he falls into a vat of waste chemicals. However, in Phillips’s version, the Joker, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, laughs involuntarily due to suffering from a mental illness. Arthur is a stand up comic, and when he has one of his laughing spells during a routine, the video of it goes viral and sets the stage for the birth of the Joker.
Phillips is a very hands-on creator, as he served as director, producers, and writer on the Joker film. Not to be misled by the film’s title, it is essential to keep in mind that the movie chooses to take on some genuine world issues, such as mental health, class differences, and gun violence.
During a roundtable discussion, hosted by THR, Phillips brought up a point that many had not known. Due to Warner Brothers’ fear that the dark, ominous tones of the film would have an impact on both marketability and merchandising, the Joker almost didn’t get made.
Phillips, however, was unphased by any criticism that the film has received, in reference to its violent tones. He still believes that those viewers who choose to watch the movie will see that there is more to it than the controversy wants to lead you to believe. The film is about much more than that of a mentally ill man who chooses to shoot people.
Many producers and filmmakers in Hollywood seem to allow themselves to get overly fixated on the merchandising aspect of the process. Disney movies are a perfect example, as they also consider how both their merchandise and amusement parks will continue to profit from their films. Many say that Marvel appears headed in this same direction, especially since its partnership with Disney.
Then there are those that feel that it is more important to prioritize the artistry of the production rather than any resulting commercialism. An as such, this is what many believe that Phillips did with Joker.
Do you believe commercialism is more critical than artistry in films today?