Smile! The chilling first trailer for director Todd Phillips’s Joker is here.
“I used to think my life was a tragedy,” says Arthur Fleck, the man who will become the legendary Batman villain known as the Joker, and who’s played in this spin on the character by Joaquin Phoenix. “But now I realize it’s a comedy.”
Fleck’s words offer a haunting way to think of both the Joker and the trailer. In it, we see Fleck begin to pursue a goal of trying to make the world laugh, and then, through a series of traumatic events — beatings, ridicule, loss, and some creepy dancing with his mother — we see the sadistic turn he takes toward to becoming the Joker.
The most searing part is that we don’t really know what he’s capable of, just that he’s deranged.
Joker is an origin story set in Gotham in the 1980s that aims to once again add depth and sadism to a character who was a little underwhelming in his last big-screen appearance in 2016’s Suicide Squad, where he was played by Jared Leto.
On the one hand, Leto’s somewhat disappointing turn as the Joker is understandable, as expectations for the iconic villain will forever be high thanks to Jack Nicholson’s and Heath Ledger’s indelible performances in 1989’s Batman and 2008’s The Dark Knight, respectively.
But on the other hand, Leto’s take on the Joker — which Warner Bros. is reportedly unhappy with — and the overall poor quality of Suicide Squad marred the character and left audiences feeling let down. As a result, there’s a lot riding on Joker, because Phoenix’s take on Batman’s most insidious villain is as an important opportunity for Warner Bros. to return the character to his dark roots.
Phoenix could be great in the role and deliver a splendid performance; from the glimpses we see of Phoenix in the trailer, he’s pretty scary — especially when he’s using his fingers to pull up the inside corners of his mouth to form a smile.
However, it’s crucial to note that the Joker is a completely standalone film that won’t be connected to the DC Extended Universe — so it won’t have any bearing on recent and upcoming DCEU entries like Shazam!, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. No matter how good or bad Phoenix turns out to be, his version of the Joker can only go so far.
Joker arrives in movies theaters on October 4, 2019.