While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has tried- to mixed results- to convince audiences that “It’s all connected” for the last ten years, it’s taken DC some time to figure out exactly how they want to adapt the shared universe model that’s become all the rage. While Man of Steel told a standalone story that left some wiggle room to build a universe upon, the next two DC films (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) heavily hinged on the idea that these stories are all attached in a major and direct way.
In the two years since those two films came out, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have tweaked things considerably. Following the unbridled success of Wonder Woman, a film that had hardly any references to a larger shared universe, they decided they wanted to go back to the days of standalone adventures for their iconic heroes. But they also want to leave the back door open so that they could eventually have some fun crossover events down the line.
One of the more radical ideas to come out of DC’s rethinking of its cinematic model is the concept of a production banner aimed squarely at movies that are connected to nothing. Similar to the books on which they’re based, DC would bring the Elseworld concept to the big screen. For those unfamiliar, Elseworld tales in the books center on stories that have no attachment whatsoever to the existing canon and operate on an almost “What if?” creative conceit.
A popular example of an Elseworld story is Mark Millar’s Red Son, which tells the story of Superman with a twist: “What if baby Kal-El’s ship, instead of landing in Smallville and being discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent, landed in the communist Soviet Union?” And the story takes unexpected turns as the book explores the concept of nature versus nurture, showing how differently the story of Superman would’ve played out in this setting.
As such, DC Entertainment wants to be able to tell radical reimaginings like these, and they’ve already lined up their first movie for this new creative avenue. It’s called Joker, it’ll star Joaquin Phoenix, and it’s being directed by Todd Phillips. The film will be a standalone tale, disconnected from the Joker we met in Suicide Squad (played by Jared Leto), and put its own unique spin on the Clown Prince of Crime’s origin.
Former DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns was asked about how he thinks people are going to like this Elseworld approach at the movies, and he seems to think it’s going to be a real crowd-pleaser. He seems to be of the mind that audiences will enjoy having a wide variety of ways to enjoy and take in a multitude of DC properties- be it at the movies, or at home with the soon-to-launch DC Universe streaming service.
Here’s what he said, when asked about these ambitious plans for an Elseworld label that will launch with Joker:
“My own personal opinion is that the DC characters are so elastic and there’s so many stories to tell. I think that anything you can do in a comic, you can do on TV or the movies. We’re getting a Shazam! movie, Mera’s on the big screen. We’re doing a Stargirl TV shownow. There’s a lot. Every character’s going to have their due.“
That last bit seems to be the most important takeaway here. Johns is of the mind that continuities and interconnectedness doesn’t matter so much, as long as the great library of DC characters are getting a chance to shine. To him, it’s more important that the characters are done justice, and that the stunning variety of stories that have been told in the comic book medium are given a proper spotlight. Johns seems confident that audiences will enjoy this “A little something for everybody” mantra that DC seems to be adopting.
What do you think?