Reinventing the Franchise: Will Joker: Folie à Deux’s Musical Twist Succeed?

Joker: Folie à deux tries something different

Regardless of your feelings on Joker, turning the sequel partly into a musical is certainly different.

For this article, we will look back over other sequel examples that have changed genre from the first. We will analyse whether Joker: Folie à Deux can succeed and look at other franchises that could benefit from taking a different track.

Changing Beats

Film franchises regularly shift focus over time. By King Kong’s third feature appearance, the series had morphed from a fantasy horror adventure to sci-fi-inflected action. Aliens famously changed its series from horror to more of an action focus. Many serious series have also become more comedic and vice versa (the Evil Dead trilogy and the recent Ghostbusters films).

These genre shifts happen for many reasons (creative and financial) but do these changes land well at the box office? After all, it can be alienating for fans to see a movie series built on one genre’s principles suddenly shift to another. While also seeming confusing for general audiences.

Generally, it’s impossible to say. Sometimes a genre shift can go down well if the prior film was already successful (Alien and Aliens) or if it shakes up a fairly predictable franchise (Ghostbusters). However, even films with solid fanbases can see a genre change undercut their success financially (Return To Oz) or in terms of reception (Halloween 3). So there’s no guarantee that a genre change would automatically yield failure or success for a sequel.

A Different Devil

But regardless of financial success will this change suit Joker’s dark world? Well from a talent perspective, it could certainly work. Both Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix have experience with singing and dramatic roles (A Star Is Born and Walk The Line). Director Todd Phillips and cinematographer Lawrence Sher also have experience making films based on music. Phillips directed Phish’s concert movie Bittersweet Motel and Sher shot a Dua Lipa music video. So the talent is there to make the film work.

Additionally, the series change can work tonally. One of the first film’s highlights was the stair dance sequence, which shows that music and theatricality are nothing alien to this Joker. Joker also trades on us not knowing whether something is real or in Arthur Fleck’s head, making for a perfect excuse to make the film a musical.

This doesn’t mean it will definitely be a success. Musicals are struggling to draw box office numbers, genre changes are unsure things in franchises and the conceit could not work from a story perspective. This merely means a genre change isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Change The Record

Lastly, for fun, here are three film franchises that could benefit from a genre change. 

Batman (Main Series)

For decades, it feels like DC has been afraid to let Batman have some fun in his main cinematic releases (only seeming to lighten up in spinoffs). With every new adaptation upping the Bat-misery a comedic Batman film would be very welcome now. All they would need to do is have Batman and a version of Robin fight a villain without the fate of Gotham being at stake and have a laugh with the universe.

Remember when Batman was fun? // Credit: 20th Century Fox
Remember when Batman was fun? // Credit: 20th Century Fox

Knives Out

The Knives Out series has successfully updated the murder mystery formula for modern audiences but unlike other franchises it hasn’t gone outside its genre wheelhouse (like A Haunting in Venice). Writer/director Rian Johnson has often upended expectations, and with the series having fantastic casts and social commentary the films could easily switch to another sub-genre while keeping it based in modern times so long as it has something to say. Imagine Benoit Blanc investigating a musician’s death leading into a musical story about how the music industry exploits radical images for profit. Who wouldn’t watch that?

Benoit Blanc already likes singing, let's make a Knives Out musical // Credit: T-Street Productions
Benoit Blanc already likes singing, let’s make a Knives Out musical // Credit: T-Street Productions


After so many lacklustre sequels and requels that all boil down to Michael Myers stabbing people Halloween should return to its long-abandoned anthology idea. Just give the brand name to an up-and-coming creative team and let them do something different in any horror sub-genre they want.

Dr. Challis screaming for Halloween to stop making Michael Myers movies // Credit: Universal Pictures
Dr. Challis screaming for Halloween to stop making Michael Myers movies // Credit: Universal Pictures

Do you think Joker Folie à Deux’s genre change will work well or hinder its success? And what film franchises do you think would benefit from a genre change?

Also Read: The Perfect Batman: A Look At The Actor & Director Duos Behind The Films

Posted by
Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.