The trailer for The Suicide Squad shows James Gunn brought his unique style to the sequel to the original David Ayer D.C. Comics villain-ensemble film. Warner Bros. provided Gunn with tremendous leeway, and the writer-director faced no conditions that he had to stick with anything from the original movie. That’s one reason why Jared Leto’s Joker doesn’t appear in the sequel.
No Time for Jokers
James Gunn’s reasoning for not including the Joker makes sense: the villain didn’t fit into the sequel’s plot. Granted, there might be other reasons why the “Clown Prince of Crime” skips this second outing.
When a studio hires a name director, one with many options on the table, creative freedom becomes almost essential. That said, Warner Bros. likely wishes to keep the franchise from veering too far from the original concept. Fox’s disastrous Fantastic Four reboot delivered a film that sought to eliminate many of the things that made the original two films hits. Reportedly, James Gunn was under no obligation to bring back Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Gunn understood the massive fan backlash such a firing would yield and keep the actor and character.
Jared Leto and the Joker didn’t make the cut, though. Honestly, many fans won’t hold the decision against the director. Cramming too many characters into a film could undermine the narrative’s focus. The Suicide Squad features several characters vying for screen time, so adding a cameo or subplot featuring Leto’s Joker wouldn’t serve any purpose.
A New Joker in Audience’s Minds
James Gunn likely realizes that Joaquin Phoenix is the “real” Joker in audiences’ minds. Anyone else playing the role might receive unfavorable comparisons, and Gunn probably doesn’t want to press about the film focusing on a weakly received Joker.
Yes, Jared Leto appeared as the Joker before Phoenix, but Leto’s performance received pans. Overall, the original Suicide Squad garnered subpar reviews, and Leto’s heavily cut cameo contributed to the film’s convoluted structure.
James Gunn’s approach to the villainous anti-hero team intends to put the problems of the first entry out of fan’s minds. Keeping the Joker away from the story helps the cause.