By The Nerdling
Like most of the internet, I was not sold on the idea of a movie centered around the Joker when Warner Bros announced the project some time ago. Especially after Jared Leto’s… shall we say… interesting take on the iconic character during Suicide Squad.
The Joker is a pure agent of chaos. The less you know about him the better. Giving him an origin story could effectively neuter the badassness of him. The only person who came close to giving the Joker an origin story while maintaining the aura of mystery was Alan Moore in the classic comic The Killing Joke. Considering what Suicide Squad did to the Joker, I just knew this was going to be largely mishandled.
When the first photos of Joaquin Phoenix in makeup were release, I felt myself crumble in defeat. He looked like a sad birthday clown at the end of a very long day. Not scary at all. Even with the morphing video. Add in Todd Phillips as the director and it seemed like a recipe for a disaster. Philips is a fine director and all, but not the person I would have expected to resurrect one of the best villains on the page and screen.
So imagine my shock when the first teaser poster was released.
It is so simple, yet so unnerving. Phoenix’s Joker looked like a deranged birthday clown at the end of a rampage. I found myself become cautiously optimistic. Joker could be worth giving a shot. Then came the teaser. Y’all, I’m sold.
Jimmy Durante croons “Smile” as Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck tells us “I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize… it’s a comedy.” We watch Arthur as he begins to spiral in 1970’s Gotham. Joker invokes a feeling of Taxi Driver mixed with The Killing Joke. A failed comedian dealing with mental illness, down on his luck, and pushed to the limit.
Phoenix is front and center, but there are glimpses of other major characters. Francis Conroy as Penny Fleck, Arthur’s mother. Zazie Beetz, a single mother and Arthur’s love interest. Brett Cullen’s Thomas Wayne who is described as very Trump-like. Dante Pereira-Olson’s young Bruce Wayne. Robert DeNiro’s late night talk show host who may have something to do with Arthur’s failed career at stand-up comedy. There is even hints of the infamous Joker laugh, but I’m kind of hoping that is going to get fine-tuned in post.
Gotham looks like a gritty, pre-Giuliani New York. A place where the air is barely breathable, trash litters the streets, and porn shops and cracked out hookers are on every corner. The movie looks like 70’s era Martin Scorsese. The perfect birth place for the Batman.
From what I’ve seen so far, this could be another iconic take on a legendary comic book villain. It would not be a stretch to say I’m excited for Joker. Leave it to Phillips and Warner Bros to make me eat my skepticism.
Joker hits U.S. theaters October 4th.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.