When it comes to cinematic takes on DC Comics’ arguably most popular superhero character Batman, it has been thrice that his most iconic arch-enemy the Joker has been portrayed on the big screen. The first time was in 1966 in a movie spinoff of the “campy” “Batman” TV series starring Adam West, where Joker (Cesar Romero) was merely a clown-themed Prince of Crime. In the 1989 film starring Michael Keaton, Joker (Jack Nicholson) was a psychotic mob enforcer disfigured and driven insane by chemicals. And in 2008’s “The Dark Knight” starring Christian Bale, Joker (Heath Ledger) was a facially-scarred “agent of chaos” who infamously wanted to watch the world burn.
A new version of the Joker as protagonist of his own self-titled Warner-DC film is premiering later this year. With Joaquin Phoenix in the role, the movie promises another origin story for the criminal clown super-villain that takes beats from the source comics but puts a spin all its own. Said comic book source shows that the joker was once an ordinary man who failed a career as a stand-up comedian, and who is twisted by an uncaring society into a criminally insane villain. The final trailer for it, as Comic Book Resources tells us, sells this character narrative masterfully.
The previous “Joker” trailer, revealed back in April, sees the life of struggling comic clown Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) as tries to balance finding a comedian break, working as a clown, and caring for his ill mother, framed through Arthur’s own thoughts. This final trailer sees Arthur from the eyes of other people. A mother sees him making funny faces to entertain her child on the bus and she admonishes him. His psychiatrist cancels their sessions because they are unproductive, only for Arthur to call out her trite psychoanalytic methods. Mentioning how she always asks if he has been getting “negative thoughts,” Arthur testily says that all his thoughts are negative.
As expected, a person with deep-seated internal issues working as an externally-funny character would eventually go wrong. When Arthur sees talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) bash a recording of his stand-up audition on live TV – while attending to his mother in the hospital – he snaps and spirals into a madness that drives him into plunging Gotham city into chaotic anarchy, in a twisted means to bring laughter to the world. Joaquin Phoenix promised audiences a scary Joker; judging from the final trailer he delivered, and more besides.
In addition to Phoenix and De Niro, “Joker” also stars Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Frances Conroy, Douglas Hodge and Dante Pereira-Olson, all under the direction of Todd Phillips. The movie, a standalone feature from Warner Bros. and DC films, premieres in the Venice International Film Fest on August 31 and in cinemas on October 4.
Image courtesy of DC YouTube