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‘Joker’ pairs up with Gaga as sequel hype hits CinemaCon

Warner Bros. offered a glimpse of its eagerly anticipated “Joker” sequel at CinemaCon.

Todd Phillips is set to release a sequel to 'Joker,' which won an Oscar for its star Joaquin Phoenix and reinvented what is possible for superhero adaptations
Todd Phillips is set to release a sequel to 'Joker,' which won an Oscar for its star Joaquin Phoenix and reinvented what is possible for superhero adaptations - Copyright AFP/File Audu MARTE
Todd Phillips is set to release a sequel to 'Joker,' which won an Oscar for its star Joaquin Phoenix and reinvented what is possible for superhero adaptations - Copyright AFP/File Audu MARTE
Andrew MARSZAL

Warner Bros. offered a glimpse of its eagerly anticipated “Joker” sequel at CinemaCon on Tuesday, as the Hollywood studio set out plans to build on the success of last year’s blockbuster “Barbie.”

Warner’s presentation at the Las Vegas movie summit also featured footage from a long-awaited follow-up to 1980s classic “Beetlejuice,” plus Robert Pattinson promoting a new sci-fi from “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho.

But the focus was on “Joker: Folie A Deux,” Todd Phillips’ sequel to a controversial original that won an Oscar for its star Joaquin Phoenix, and reinvented what is possible for superhero adaptations.

The 2019 “Joker” offered a dark, R-rated origin story for Batman’s future nemesis Arthur Fleck, and polarized audiences by presenting its murderous villain as a hero, even prompting fears it could inspire mass shootings.

Rumors have swirled around the sequel — out in October — which adds Lady Gaga, one of the world’s biggest pop music stars, to its cast, and has been described as a musical.

Introducing a new trailer for the film, Phillips called his latest work “a movie where music is an essential element,” adding that it “doesn’t really veer too far from the first film” in that sense.

“Arthur is weird and aloof and distant, all these things, but he has music in him, he has a grace to him,” explained Phillips.

“That informed a lot of the dancing in the first film… so it didn’t seem like that big of a step, what we did here.

“It’s different but I think it’ll make sense once you see it.”

The trailer showed Phoenix’s Joker meeting Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn in an asylum, before the two seemingly plot their escape.

Other dreamlike sequences featured the pair dancing romantically on a moonlit Gotham rooftop, and putting on an elaborate stage show.

“I’ll tell you what’s changed. I’m not alone any more,” says the Joker, in one scene.

Phillips also thanked movie theater owners for standing by his first “Joker” film through controversy in 2019. It went on to gross more than $1 billion.

– ‘No-brainer’ –

The annual CinemaCon movie industry summit is an opportunity for Hollywood studios to present their upcoming films to theater owners from around the world.

This year, it is being held as industry forecasts predict the annual global box office haul will shrink, in part due to the impact of recent industrywide strikes.

Actors and writers shut down hundreds of Hollywood movie and TV productions last year, leaving gaping holes in current release calendars.

The blow is just the latest in a difficult five-year period for the industry, which has yet to fully recover from the pandemic, and the rise of streaming.

As a studio, Warner enjoyed significant success with “Barbie,” the top grossing film of last year, which earned $1.45 billion.

But parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, created by a 2022 merger, has seen its stock price plummet, even as mass layoffs ensued.

So the stakes were high for the studio’s upcoming slate, which also included George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” M. Night Shyamalan horror “Trap,” and Kevin Costner’s new multi-movie Western saga “Horizon.”

Costner promised his project, which involves back-to-back films hitting theaters in June and August, will take an unflinching look at the “tough” and “mean” 19th-century settlers who fought tooth and nail to grab their share of the US West.

“That promise meant that we stepped on a whole group of people who had been here for thousands of years,” said Costner.

“But that’s what happened… I don’t pass judgment because I don’t want to look down on people’s resourcefulness to create what they created here in America.”

Returning cast members Michael Keaton and Catherine O’Hara previewed “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice,” a sequel that director Tim Burton called “a weird family reunion.”

And Korean director Bong made his CinemaCon debut to promote comedic sci-fi “Mickey 17” — his first film since “Parasite” became the only non-English-language movie to win best picture at the Oscars.

“With Bong doing it, it was a no-brainer,” said Pattinson, who plays multiple characters in the movie, out in January.

AFP
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