Joker 2’s Unique Genre Could Be the Cure for Superhero Fatigue

The supervillain can perfectly take advantage of the failing heroes.

Warner Bros.

The sequel to Joker had to be something big. The original film rocked the superhero movie world with a completely new take on the villain while paying homage to classic films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. A sequel had to capture that same energy, but with a different take so as to not be derivative.

Joker: Folie à Deux seemed to have the perfect combination: in 2022, The Hollywood Reporter announced Lady Gaga would join the cast as Harley Quinn and the sequel would be a musical. But a recent quote from the film’s cinematographer casts doubt on this, despite the fact Joker 2 is perfectly set up to not only top its predecessor, but once again cut through the monotony of the superhero genre.

In a YouTube masterclass, Joker and Joker 2 cinematographer Lawrence Sher revealed that Joker 2 isn’t the musical previous reports made it out to be. “It’s not a musical per se, it just has music in it,” Sher said. “The music is part of the film and the characters, but I don't know if it's a musical.”

When you think about it, is there a huge difference between a hallucinated stand-up set and a fantasy song-and-dance number?

Warner Bros.

This is just the latest in a trend of downplaying a movie’s musical nature to avoid alienating viewers, something that was established with the trailers for Wonka and Mean Girls. But regardless of the degree of musicality of Joker 2, why isn’t it embracing this new genre, especially with such high-caliber talent like Lady Gaga onboard?

Superhero movies are already overstaying their welcome. Recent superhero movies have had poor showings, and the sheer amount of entries in the genre has led to the rise of terms like “superhero fatigue,” a growing disinterest in formulaic comic book movies.

So far, the best way to break out of this has been to change up the tone and subgenre. Joker did this with its nuanced take on mental illness and its redefinition of how we look at origin stories. Joker 2 being a musical is the perfect way to continue this pattern and make the movie stand out. The only way to do that is to fully lean into the genre and gather inspiration from classic Golden Age musicals the same way Joker did with classic Scorsese movies.

For Valentine’s Day, director Todd Phillips shared new photos from the film, including one of Joker and Harley seemingly mid-dance number on the rooftop. While this is a great sign, it doesn’t prove Sher’s quote wrong. It’s possible the film is inspired by musicals without fully committing with fully staged burst-into-song moments, but that would be a huge missed opportunity. Joker already has a reputation for taking big swings, and flirting with a theme without going all-out would make for a disappointing follow-up.

Joker 2 being inspired by a musical may not be the most popular or marketable choice, but it’s the next logical step for the story. Joker was all about living in your own head and delusions, and that’s exactly what fantastical movie musical numbers are. If Joker 2 doesn’t take full advantage of this similarity, then it may not be the disruptor to the superhero movie universe we all thought.

Joker: Folie á Deux premieres in theaters October 4, 2024.

Related Tags