When the unique DC adaptation Joker hits theaters later this year, it will indeed be with an R rating from the MPAA. This one-off take on the iconic DC Comics villain was spearheaded by The Hangover and War Dogs filmmaker Todd Phillips, who pitched making a gritty, 70s-set Joker movie in the vein of Taxi Driver with a major movie star in the lead role. He landed Joaquin Phoenix to play the Clown Prince of Crime, and indeed the film’s first trailer looks more like a Martin Scorsese movie than a comic book adaptation, with Phillips leaning hard into “serious drama” territory with the most famous superhero villain of all time.
And while the film was reported as being envisioned as R-rated, you really never know—Warner Bros. could have looked at the film in post-production and decided they wanted to appeal to a wider audience. Luckily that’s not the case, as Phillips took to Instagram to share a new photo of Phoenix in character while also confirming in the comments that Joker is indeed rated R.
This isn’t the first “serious” R-rated take on a comic book story. Logan not only successfully veered into drama territory (as well as Western), but earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in the process. But Joker is unique in that it’s not a continuation of a franchise or existing character. Jared Leto’s take on Joker from Suicide Squad doesn’t exist in the world of Phillips’ film, and we don’t even know if other superheroes exist in this story. The idea was simply to tell an origin story for this iconic character in a unique way, without tying an actor of Phoenix’s caliber to a multi-film contract, so that makes this an excitingly refreshing prospect. There’s also the fact that (as far as we know, at least) this is a close-ended story in a landscape where conclusions are becoming fewer and further between, so that’s an added appeal.
It’ll be interesting to see how the film lands, and if it spurs Warner Bros. to make more of these one-off adaptations that could attract serious talent that may normally be averse to traditional superhero films. We’ll find out when Joker hits theaters on October 4th.