DC have been going in a lighter direction with their past couple of movies. Aquaman brought a technicolour frenzy of tones and ideas to the franchise while the upcoming Shazam! has been praised for its knowingly goofy humour and childlike glee, and the teaser for Birds of Prey offered Robyn music video party fun. Much has been written about whether this means Warner Bros. will totally abandon the grim and dark style they tried out with Zack Snyder’s tenure, but then there’s Joker. The planned one-off alternate origin story for DC’s most iconic villain has raised many eyebrows since its announcement and left a lot of us very skeptical. How do you make an origin story for a character defined by his lack of origin, and how do you let the guy who made The Hangover do it? Well, according to the first trailer, you let him go full Scorsese.
The trailer premiered yesterday at Cinemacon, where early word was highly positive, and I have to say that I don’t hate this trailer? I am still hugely skeptical about this movie as a whole, but the trailer looks and feels much more interesting than I was expecting. The story follows Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix (looking SUPER skinny), a failed comedian caring for his mother in Gotham City who falls down a dark path as he is neglected and abused by society. It’s an intriguing concept for a Joker origin and one with obvious parallels to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. People have made their Taxi Driver comparisons already - which will delight Phillips, I’m sure - but the more obvious one to make seems to be another Scorsese title, The King of Comedy, right down to the inclusion of Robert De Niro. Scorsese was rumoured to be attached as a producer for the film, but in his place is Emma Tillinger Koskoff, who produced several of Scorsese’s films (also Bradley Cooper is a producer so I want your Joker/Jackson Maine fan-theories now).
So yeah, well done, Joker, you have my attention. I’ve seen almost every Joaquin Phoenix movie so of course I’ll see this. Watching him play the Joker in any context is going to at the very least be fascinating. I’m still weary of how a narrative like this could slide into some seriously problematic territory, and as fellow Overlord Kristy noted, a story about another white dude who snaps because society is too hard on him is could go so very wrong and appeal to a highly undesired audience. But for now, I am way more optimistic than I was even a few days ago.
I also love the Joker suit.
Joker opens in American cinemas on October 4th. It also stars Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Shea Whigham, Glenn Fleshler and Marc Maron.
Also aww, sibling support.
Header Image Source: Warner Bros.