Could Joaquin Phoenix become the greatest Joker of them all? The Oscar-nominated actor has big (clown) shoes to fill…
Move over Pennywise. The scariest clown of them all is back.
This week DC released its first trailer for their highly-anticipated origin story, Joker, which will focus on how Batman’s greatest foe came to be.
Immediately the preview sparked a frenzy online globally as fans lapped up the dark, creepy footage of the standalone movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Crown Prince of Crime.
And for the first time on the big screen we see The Joker introduced as – wait for it – a sympathetic character. Arthur Fleck is a stand-up comedian and street clown, trying to make people laugh, who is beaten up by thugs and mocked by the public, until… well, decades of pop culture tells us what happens next.
But it’s interesting that this irresistible backstory of arguably the most famous villain of all – not just Gotham – has eluded the big screen for so long.
Fortunately, in October, just in time for Halloween, that will change, thanks to writer and director Todd Phillips, who helmed the Hangover trilogy and Borat… (so he should know something about laughs, although the Joker’s laugh is a bit different from Vegas stag do’s and Sacha Baron Cohen, one would imagine.)
That famous cackle electrifies in the trailer, which gives comic book fans their first glimpse of Gladiator actor Joaquin in full-on Joker mode. And boy, does he look the part.
The hype is enormous, but understandably, fans are cautious. The Joker is a difficult role to take on. And that’s no joke. Some even argue that the character is cursed, which is somewhat of a stretch, but this heightened particularly since Heath Ledger tragically died after playing the part to acclaim in 2008 classic The Dark Knight.
Will Joaquin become another iconic Joker, like Jack Nicholson – who earned more from the role than any actor in Hollywood ever had at the time of 1998’s Batman, after cutting a deal with Tim Burton that saw him take a cut of earnings and merchandise, reportedly raking him over $60 million for the part. And, more challenging yet, could Joaquin top Ledger, who won a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his unforgettable portrayal? Or will it be another case of Jared Leto, where the movie can’t live up to the hype?
Because we’ve certainly been here before, and not long ago. Remember the tantalising trailer for 2016’s Suicide Squad? Dropped a year earlier, with a genius use of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and showing – what turned out to be – all the good bits of the film, fans couldn’t wait to get into the super-villain blockbuster, especially Jared’s super creepy, modern-looking Joker, complete with tattoos and piercings. But when the film was released, it was universally panned. Hammy, ridiculous and, worst of all, boring.
Jared was reportedly extremely disappointed with the result, especially after he’d fully immersed himself in the role, with reports of him staying in character and gifting dead rats and pigs to castmates (‘aw… you, erm, shouldn’t have…’) The film still raked in the cash from the hype, but was plagued with criticism, and plans for Jared and Margot Robbie – as Harley Quinn – to release solo movie outings appear to have been dropped in the wake of it all.
So after a characteristically chaotic 21st century so far for The Joker, you’d be forgiven for thinking the character was dead. But no. Anyone who’s followed the adventures of Batman long enough knows there’s no killing The Joker.
So here we are, with the next instalment upon us. Watching the trailer, it’s hard to see how they could screw this one up. Everything feels so right. They’ve seemingly used The Killing Joke by Alan Moore as an origin story, which is one of the most famous and legendary comic books of all time, and they’re clearly taking inspiration from the remorseless serial killer version of The Joker originally envisioned by his creators: Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson.
Eagle-eyed fans have also noticed what appears to be a brief shot of a young Bruce Wayne in this week’s trailer.
At the 1.45 mark, The Joker is forcing a smile onto a young boy (‘let’s put a smile on that face!’) who is believed to be junior Batman, after it was confirmed last year that an actor had been cast as a young Bruce Wayne.
So things just got even more interesting. Of course, there’s no pleasing everyone. Some are complaining that Phoenix will never live up to Ledger, that the film will be boring without Batman (adult Batman anyway,) or that this is going to be a ‘Jared Let-down’ all over again.
But maybe they just need to lighten up? As they say… Why? So… SERIOUS.