A Batman v Joker movie could make Marvel’s Avengers look like the Powerpuff Girls

Could Warner Bros finally match Marvels box office might with a mini-verse featuring Robert Pattinsons caped crusader and Joaquin Phoenixs Arthur Fleck?

Where Marvel continues to revel in an orgy of interconnectedness, the imminent launch of new superhero shows on the Disney+ channel being perhaps the apex of this splurge of comic book joined-up thinking, DC seems hellbent on going in the opposite direction.

After 2017s Justice League failed to leap tall buildings in a single bound and the previous years Suicide Squad slumped languidly into the shadows, Warner Bross subsequent DC movies have taken a narrower approach to world-building, with some success. Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam! all managed to engage audiences without cramming dozens of costumed crime fighters into the same movie. Freed from the need to maintain thematic integrity across multiple episodes, Warners superhero movies have finally found their feet. So much so that it is tempting to wonder if the long-mooted DC Extended Universe, always planned as a Marvel-aping excuse to cross-pollinate the publishers entire back catalogue, has already met an untimely demise.

James Gunns upcoming Suicide Squad 2 may do its best to pull out the creative defibrillator when it finally debuts in 2021, but in the meantime, there are rumours of a rather more intriguing example of inter-superhero shenanigans. Could Robert Pattinsons Batman really end up in the same movie as Joaquin Phoenixs Joker, currently picking up rave reviews in Venice? A slip of the tongue by Pattinson in a new interview suggests so.

Slip of the tongue … Robert Pattinson. Photograph: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

The prospect has a certain synergy to it, because both actors have made a home for themselves as doyens of the arthouse film, even if their careers started off in very different places. It is hard to imagine a Batman movie featuring Phoenixs Scorsese-inspired, 70s crime movie-style take on the clown prince of Gotham not hitting it off creatively with the taciturn caped crusader everyone hopes to see in Matt Reeves forthcoming The Batman. The inclusion of both actors hints at a character-driven, cine-literate piece that couldnt be further from the monstrously lightweight CGI-strewn nonsense of the worst DC releases. Why bother to set up Phoenixs Arthur Fleck in such detail if he merely exists to be retooled as a common baddie in future instalments?

Of course, the inclusion of top talent doesnt always guarantee quality film-making just ask the Oscar-winning Jared Leto, sort-of star of Suicide Squad, in which he played a version of the Joker so superfluous to events it would probably have been easier and cheaper to render the villain entirely via CGI. But setting Pattinson against Phoenix would at least create the kind of positive buzz around a major movie event that Warner needs if it is ever to match Marvels box office might and critical currency.

The hype around Joker is such that Warner would be foolish not to make Todd Phillips film a jumping-off point for a fresh Gotham-themed mini-universe. Perhaps DC fans might even find themselves gifted the interconnected series of movies that the DC Extended Universe was intended to usher in, through a surprising route. If Warner has largely failed in its efforts to mimic Marvels industry-shaking success, that does not mean the studio cannot find an alternate, more organic route to world-building that better fits the superheroes and film-makers at its disposal.

Superfluous … Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

Naysayers might point out that Phoenixs Joker seems to be living in a different timeline to Pattinsons version of Batman. Bruce Waynes father Thomas appears in Phillips movie as a tyrannical Trump figure, played by 63-year-old actor Brett Cullen, while Wayne is portrayed by nine-year-old actor Dante Pereira-Olson. This suggests Phoenixs Fleck wont be battling a Pattinson-aged caped crusader for at least a decade or two. On the other hand, that gives DC plenty of time to finally get this new cinematic mini-verse right. The fan anticipation that would build in the meantime could be enough to make the Avengers look like the Powerpuff Girls.

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