Over the years, we have come across many Jokers on-screen and have rarely ever wondered about their background. Whether their struggles with depression and psychosis ever contributed to The Joker’s ultimate descent into madness, was a question no one seemed to ask. The central premise of the Joker’s character has always been to appear out of nowhere and to commit the most monstrous crimes. As opposed to Batman, whose origins are what define his character; the Joker is a character whose identity never seemed to be as important as his actions.
Warner Bros. released the first trailer for ‘Joker’, an origin story on Batman’s infamous adversary, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck. Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover movies, brings us this crime thriller that documents the descent of a failed stand-up comedian (Phoenix) into villainy. The trailer received over eight million views in the first few hours of release.
Development of the standalone film was confirmed in 2017, followed by Phoenix’s attachment to the movie in February 2018. After the success of Wonder Woman, DC Films wanted to de-emphasize the shared nature of its DC Comics-based film franchise, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). In August 2017, Warner Bros. and DC Films revealed plans for a Joker film separate from the DCEU, directed by Todd Phillips with Martin Scorsese as the co-producer.
WHO IS GOING TO BE IN IT?
Three-time Academy Award nominee, Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead as Arthur Fleck/ The Joker. Phoenix is the fifth actor to play the Joker in the live-action movies, after Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto. Alongside Phoenix, we have Robert DeNiro playing a talk show host, Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne, Dante Pereira-Olson as a young Bruce Wayne and Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) as a single mother and the rumored love interest in the story.
PLOT OF THE MOVIE
Warner Bros. official announcement describes the movie as “an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study but also a broader cautionary tale”. The plot of the movie is designed to remind us that everyone is a protagonist in their own stories, even villains. The movie plays on the idea that we are all ‘one bad day’ away from being driven into madness. The film is almost a metaphorical comparison between a vat of acid and the toxicity of the society we live in. It begs the question, how many Jokers do we create around us, just by our toxic behavior?
TIMELINE OF THE MOVIE
Joker is set in 1981 and portrays a Gotham City that looks a lot like the New York City of the same era. It is important to know that ‘Joker’ is not in canon with movies like Justice League, Batman V Superman or Man of Steel. This movie is like a distant prequel, taking place at a time way before Bruce Wayne became the superhero we all know and love. All signs point to this film being self-contained and not part of, or setting up a franchise. This could mean that the story will remain focused on the Joker as a character and might not reference Batman at all. (Although, we do catch a glimpse of a young Bruce Wayne in the trailer.)
REACTIONS BY FANS
The release of the trailer for Joker unleashed a series of ambivalent reactions by DC fans. The argument that a lot of DC fans are making is that The Joker is a character that is not suited for an origin story. The comics books have managed to keep The Joker’s origin story ambiguous so far. While some fans believe that The Joker is character best left unexplained, others are concerned about the magnitude of influence the movie could have on people’s perception of The Joker’s origin story. Based on the trailer, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance looks phenomenal. Some fans have even dared to believe that he may surpass Heath Ledger as the next iconic Joker.
A popular theory that is surfacing is that this Joker might directly create Batman. In Justice League #52, Batman came to occupy the Mobius Chair and was given the answers to anything he might desire to know. The Mobius Chair revealed that there wasn’t just one but three distinct Jokers in existence. In the trailer of the movie, we see that Arthur Fleck’s transformation into the Joker is not only influenced by his day to day struggles but also has something to do with Thomas Wayne. Fans believe that this could be the Joker that directly plants the seed for Batman’s creation. Other fans believe that this could be an inspiration for other Joker characters, therefore not completely influencing the creation of Batman.
Some fans have even moved to assume that Arthur Fleck/ The Joker will die in this movie, following a few pictures of him falling on a car, making the impact and the age difference between Fleck and Bruce Wayne. This would leave the door open for his legacy to grow in death.
Most fans are disappointed in the film culture that judges a movie based on its trailer and do not want to hold out high hopes for the movie, seeing as trailers are designed to make movies look good. Fans also believe that Warner Bros. has struck gold with the idea of a Joker movie that studies the toxicity of societal pressure as opposed to having the Joker fall into a vat of acid and descent into madness.
As discussed numbers of time in this article, Joker is intended to be a standalone story with no planned sequels. However, Warner Bros. intends for the film to launch a new line of DC Comics-based films unrelated to the DCEU.
In a market of saturated heroes and villains, DC could only stand a winning chance by diving into their catalog and serving us a compelling story of a man spiraling into madness and society crumbling into chaos. Despite the heaving wave of reactions on the trailer, everyone is anxious to see what ‘Joker’ may add to the character’s legacy. Joker releases in UK cinemas on October 4, 2019.