Joker’s Commercial Success Shows We Love Bad Guys More Now

Eleven years ago, a solo Joker movie would’ve been scoffed at. Until Heath Ledger’s masterful performance in The Dark Knight. A Jared Leto and Joaquin Phoenix later, how times have changed since then.

Superhero movies are no doubt an infinitely great source of entertainment. Watching them injects a good amount of dopamine as we see our favourite spandex-wearing characters battle evil and come out tops. Just look at the closing of Marvel Studios’ 23-film Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

However, recent trends have seen a desire to see the dark side win. Or at least, have their perspectives be known.

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It’s been nearly a month since the premiere of the box office sensation, Joker. The Joaquin Phoenix-led movie is showing no signs of slowing down as it continues to impress crowds, and in turn rake in millions of dollars.

At the time of writing, Joker grossed around US$849 million at the global box office (via Variety) and as such it recently clinched the crown of best-grossing R-rated film, taking over from Deadpool 2‘s US$782 million, with the first movie coming in third at US$785 million.

What’s even more impressive is that Warner Bros. only shelled out a measly US$62.5 million to fund the production of this movie — about a fifth of what took to make Avengers: Endgame.

On local shores, the Clown Prince of Crime also graced the Little Red Dot with a bang, holding the record for biggest-ever opening weekend in October with an impressive S$96 million — a margin more than the previous holder, Venom (S$80 million).

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With the unprecedented success of villain-centric movies such as Joker and Venom, what does this mean for the genre? Are we tired of seeing the heroes front and centre? Or are we embracing our desire to see something darker in comic book movies?

Everyone loves a good story about a bad guy.

It’s up to you to decide, but there is certainly an upturn in superhero counter-culture content to have come out on the big and small screens.

Where Joker and Venom dominated the theatres, the likes of The Boys, Umbrella Academy and Watchmen have impressed on digital streamers and TV, with their alternate take (read: upheaval) of the superhero genre. Sequel seasons for the former two are already in development, and it says a lot about what the audience enjoys these days.

The Boys (2019)

While there will be no Joker sequel, it has certainly paved the way for comic book villains to become more widely accepted in popular culture.

After all, the likes of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn will be a leading character in both the upcoming Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and the Suicide Squad reboot. The aforementioned Venom, which also did well commercially in the global box office, is getting a sequel. And Morbius the Living Vampire (which will be played by Jared Leto, interestingly) will also come to the fore in the near future.

So say what you will, but the future certainly looks bright for some of the darkest characters in comic books.

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