Time to put on a happy face. Following Tuesday’s CinemaCon panel, Warner Bros. has released the first teaser for Todd Phillips’ Joker online. Continuing the streak of Oscar-caliber actors taking on the iconic role of the Clown Prince of Crime, Joaquin Phoenix dons the grease paint and green hair.
Joker is yet another departure for Warner Bros.’ DC films, taking an “Elseworlds” out-of-continuity approach that separates Phillips’ film from the rest of the cinematic universe. This separation also adds an element of freedom for Phillips, Phoenix and co., in that they don’t have to worry about franchise expectations and fitting their aesthetic for Gotham into what’s already been established. In other words, Joker’s wild.
The Martin Scorsese influence in the teaser is unmistakable. Scorsese, who was once set to executive produce the film, is as equally an important reference point for Joker as the comics themselves. Blending elements of Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982), Joker follows Arthur Fleck’s steady descent into madness as he evolves into one of our most iconic villains.
Phoenix, with his crooked posture, jagged features and discontentment with the state of his life, cuts a startling portrait of a man at the end of his rope. A tragic figure caught in a storm of psychosis. It’s a familiar New York story, but this is Gotham City, and as much as Scorsese’s New York appears to be in this film’s bones, the world of comics is clearly bleeding into Joker.
The Joaquin Phoenix film is a result of our collective fascination with villains and how they came to be.