If you're still mourning the end of an era after seeing Avengers: Endgame, the opportunity to curing your superhero cravings is coming up soon. Everyone may know the Joker as Batman's archnemesis, but in the villain's unique standalone film Joker, viewers will come to understand how this deadly clown came to be. The official Joker trailer with Joaquin Phoenix will send a shiver up your spine before it presents the possibility of feeling sorry for this notorious baddie.
While movies based on DC Comics haven't quite taken off as Marvel films have, Warner Bros. Pictures' Joker just might change that as the first project for DC Black, a series of standalone films based on DC Comics characters but separate from the continuity in the main franchise of the DC Extended Universe. Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, the movie follows the Joker's alter ego, Arthur Fleck, as his failing comedy career drives him to ignite chaos and disorder in Gotham City. Robert De Niro also stars as a popular talk show host, while Atlanta's Zazie Beetz plays Arthur's love interest.
While Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight focused on his ongoing strife with Batman, Phoenix's take on the character focuses on the man behind the painted face. The trailer suggests that in between unsuccessful comedic pursuits, Arthur is struggling with his mental health, telling a counselor, "All I have are negative thoughts."
The turning point appears to be when De Niro's character pokes fun at Arthur's comedy routine on air, as he is then shown creating the Joker persona of full clown makeup and suit. His character then grows popular as Gotham City residents begin supporting his moves as the Joker. Warner Bros.' Joker summary reads:
A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night… but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.
"For my whole life, I didn't know if I even really existed," Arthur says during the trailer. "But I do, and people are starting to notice."
As crime seemingly spikes in response to the Joker, Arthur also gets what he's always wanted when he appears on a talk show in character. But as anyone familiar with the Joker knows, people's attempts at kindness toward him will probably go unrewarded. Given Arthur's chilling grins at the camera and the trailer's grandiose musical accompaniment, the film seems destined to simultaneously scare and amaze audiences as the Joker becomes more of a threat.
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker also stems from Phoenix's desire to do something different with comic book characters. Speaking to Collider in 2018, he said:
Three or four years ago, I called my agent and said ‘Why don’t they want to take one of these characters and just make a lower budget film about it, a movie but a character study, and why not take one of the villains?’ ... so then I heard about this idea, I was like, ‘Oh that’s so exciting, that’s the kind of experience I wanted to have, with a movie based on a comic character.’ I felt like you could get something on screen.”
The newest chapter of the Joker's story may be arriving ahead of Halloween, but consider me spooked about this insight into how a villain was born.
Joker is in theaters on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.