‘Joker’ Cinematographer Plans to ‘Reshape’ Comic Book Movies with ‘Black Adam’

Even though Joker has brought in more than $1 billion worldwide, the film’s cultural impact has yet to face its real test. And no, we’re not talking about Joker‘s increasing chances of getting some serious love at next year’s Oscars. Rather, we’re waiting to see how Todd Phillips’ R-rated supervillain origin story will change the course of the industry as a whole.

For instance, we know Warner Bros. and DC Films are now hell-bent on incorporating similarly hard-edged, R-rated projects into its slate. The full extent of this remains to be seen, of course. But we are already getting a sense of how DC Films is leaning into the unexpected success of their mid-budgeted Joker film.

Cinematographer Lawrence Sher at a screening of 'Joker'
Cinematographer Lawrence Sher at a screening of ‘Joker’ | Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences

Creating a new version of Gotham

Joker has earned heaps of praise for Joaquin Phoenix’s committed performance. In fact, the actor is emerging as a frontrunner in this year’s Best Actor Oscar race. But as much as Phoenix’s performance distinguishes his take from those of actors like Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, Joker owes equally as much to its crew.

In particular, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir really sets the tone for Phillips’ bleak, hopeless, and ultimately twisted vision. Moreover, the make-up and costume design create a version of the Joker that feels both realistic but true to his comic book roots. Yet, the film’s biggest debt might be owed to cinematographer Lawrence Sher.

Gotham City is perhaps one of the most famous fictional locations in modern popular culture. And Sher manages to breathe new life into Arthur’s hometown, despite the many takes which preceded it. Even Joker‘s harshest critics concede Phillips’ film looks impressive, regardless of how they feel about the story it tells.

From ‘Joker’ to ‘Black Adam’

Apparently, the executives over at Warner Bros. and DC Films have recognized the contribution Sher brought to Joker. The cinematographer is already lined up to shoot Black Adam, DC’s upcoming project starring none other than Dwayne Johnson. At a recent Joker screening, Sher discussed how he’s approaching Black Adam.

One of my interests about it is to continue to sort of — and we’ve talked about it with Dwayne and obviously with [director Jaume Collet-Serra] and DC — can we continue to sort of reshape what a comic book movie is? Like, yes, of course you want it to be entertaining and it has to make a decent amount of money so it can’t live in such a fringe place that it doesn’t bring people in, but can we do something inventive? So that’s the goal is to continue to try to do something a bit inventive with it.

For years, people have been anticipating the day when audiences would tire of comic book movies. Of course, that hasn’t happened, and Sher’s comments touch on exactly why. We need movies that will push the boundaries of what is and isn’t typical of the genre. It’s the only way it can hope to adapt and sustain itself long-term.

A key member of DC’s future?

Since Black Adam is still in pre-production, there’s a lot we still have yet to learn about the film. However, one thing about the project that stands out is its selection of Sher as its cinematographer. Could DC Films be positioning him as a part of its long-term plans?

Because Black Adam is a character unknown to casual moviegoers, the film has an uphill battle to become a breakout hit. So it’s not beyond reason Warner Bros. might be looking to codify its strategy for DC properties going forward. Since Sher delivered in such a big way with Joker, he could become a key part of the plan for future releases.

If Phillips has his way, DC Films will be developing several R-rated origin stories covering some of the comics’ darkest figures. Sher would prove to be an asset for any or several of these upcoming projects. Time will tell whether this proves to be the case, but it does seem like DC Films is developing a thorough plan for what comes next.