As we’ve discussed on this blog at great, great length (hey, check out our Batman Cinematic Universe retrospective, why don’t you), the Joker is one of the most iconic cinematic villains of all time. From Mark Hamill to Cesar Romero, through Heath Ledger to Jared Leto, when we think of comic book villains, he’s the blueprint against all else shall be judged.
So it makes sense that he’s finally getting his only solo movie. What I didn’t expect, though? Was that movie to come with such a pedigree. Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, alongside thesps like Robert De Niro, this could be the gritty reboot to shut up doubters (like me) for good – or it could be the ill-fated disaster that proves us right. Well, lucky for us, the first trailer dropped today, so let’s take a look at what we’re working with, huh?
0:10: Dammit, I was sure that I was going to have a little more decorum and self-control, a little more cynicism in the face of yet another superhero spin-off. But seeing Joaquin Phoenix here, all of that just falls away. Ever since You Were Never Really Here, I’d watch a video of him kicking the shit out of me personally and campaign for its Oscar nomination.
0:21: Is that…is that fucking Frances Conroy? If it is, I’m going to have to book my tickets right the fuck now, because she’s one of the best actresses we’ve got working today. If they fridge her, I swear…
0:43: I already love the physicality that this movie seems to be focusing on with this version of the Joker. The odd, almost cartoonish movements of his body are so unsettling.
1:00: I’m just going to drop the “Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever seen and this role is perfect for him” shit now, but not before I point out the fact that his single “what” here is better than every single moment of Jared Leto’s Joker combined.
1:04: The classic soundtrack, plus Phoenix’s old-fashioned attire, give this a lovely noirish film not too far removed from Batman: The Animated Series, and that’s one of the best things I can compare this to.
1:25: This movie seems to involve a lot of Jared Leto getting punched, but you know, origin stories, right? It’s just mostly punching, then overcoming punching, or succumbing to punching. Punching is always involved.
1:44 At some point in this trailer, I was going to have to make mention of Heath Ledger’s astonishing, epoch-defining performance as the Joker. And yes, I have no doubt that there are elements of his visceral performance present in this version – him and Phoenix shared a similair screen presence, so it makes sense – but honestly, that’s more a bonus than it is an attempt to rip off the tragically short time we got with Ledger’s exceptional take on the performance.
1:46: That rise from the bushes is utterly horrifying. If we’re going to have a grown-up Joker movie, I don’t want it to just be more gore and more explicit fight scenes and more excuses for tits – I want it to scare the shit out of me, the way we already know the Joker can. And, so far, this trailer is hitting those marks.
2:09: Now, the big reveal of the lead character’s Lewk is always a bit of a daft moment in these comic book films – these costumes rarely translate well to screen – but I think the literal interpretation of his outfit here works, given the performative aspects that this trailer has introduced for the character already. I mean, yeah, he does look a bit silly.
Overall, I give this trailer “holy hell, it looks like they might actually pull this out of the bag?” out of ten. And frankly, I’m way more excited about it than I thought I would be. What are your thoughts? Yes, no, maybe? Did you, for some reason, like Jared Leto better? Let us know in the comments below!
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via MovieWeb)