After months of teasing set-photos and a few leaked clips from production, DC has released a full trailer for the upcoming film, Joker.
The movie follows Arthur Fleck, a failed standup comedian living in the comic book world’s toughest town, Gotham City. We now know a bit more about his backstory, including his sense of being an ‘outcast’ in society, and the revealing of an unhinged mind in the body of a crumbling man. Arthur has been beaten up and spit out by the city (literally and figuratively), and by the end of the trailer is ready to change the punchline of his own story.
Arthur Fleck slowly begins to adopt his new persona as his reality begins to distort and disappear, giving us a brief glimpse at Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the most infamous comic book villain of all time, the Joker. A more restrained, sinisterly whimsical take on the Clown Prince of Crime (at least from what the trailer offers), Phoenix’s Joker looks like a healthy mix of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. However, with as powerful of an actor as he is, I have full faith that Phoenix will bring the character into an entirely unique light, without needing any comparisons to the short list of great Joker performances that came before his (Suicide Squad excluded.)
As of now the movie seems to being staying pretty faithful to the comic storylines. (The ‘failed standup comic turned super villain’ is the backstory of the classic graphic novel The Killing Joke, albeit with the book boasting a handful of other differences.) But we are still unclear as to how this film will fit in with the newly established – and confusing – DC Universe. Joker is a standalone film set in the 1980’s, so I have no idea how it’s going to – if at all – tie in with the rest of the DC movies released so far. But in my opinion, I hope it doesn’t.
I have always said that the reason Marvel films are so well done is because they not only stay true to the comics, but for the most part are grounded in reality (as much as possible.) That’s why The Dark Knight trilogy houses the greatest ‘comic book’ films of all-time: Because they were produced and imagined as dark crime dramas with just a hint of ‘Bam’, ‘Pow’, and ‘Bang’. But that’s all in the past.
Beginning with the impossible Batman V Superman, the new DC Universe has focused their films on wafer-thin plot lines and badly animated CGI mythical creatures. (I’m still not over just how pathetically bad Justice League was, by the way.) With one critically crucified movie after another, with the exception of the solid Wonder Woman, the DC Universe is in desperate need of a good film. That is why Joker is more important than ever.
From the trailer we see a slow-burning, plot driven film grounded in a very realistic and gritty version of Gotham City. The Joker isn’t covered in nonsensical tattoos and doesn’t have metallic teeth. He is in an outfit realistic to the character and masks himself in clown makeup – the exact way you would expect a super villain to look like in a true origin story. The trailer isn’t flashy or over the top. There aren’t any crazy explosions or car chases. And we don’t even get a mention of Batman or the Wayne family. We get a hyper-realistic take on how the greatest comic book villain of all-time first got started, no glitz or glam or Hot-Topic inspired soundtracks required. And that is what I hope the film focuses on throughout its runtime.
Joker could set the precedent for the future of DC by putting plot first and CGI last. As long as this film lives up to the tone set by its trailer, this could change everything for the DC Universe regardless of where it falls in the timeline. Audiences want good stories above all else; The Joker has the best story of them all. Hopefully DC will listen, giving fans the last laugh with a movie that lives up to the hype and plots a new course for the rest of the DC Universe.
The film will be released on October 4th.