By Grace Crowley
The decision to revive the character of the Joker is brave.
Following Jared Leto’s disappointing portrayal of the maniacal villain in Suicide Squad, it seemed no actor would ever come close to either Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger’s success in the role.
But, following the release of the teaser trailer for 2019’s Joker, many people were pleasantly surprised. The role has been given to Joaquin Phoenix, known for critically acclaimed roles in films such as Gladiator, The Master, and Her.
Phoenix’s portrayal of the Joker has come as a shock to most fans, who were expecting the new depiction of the character to resemble previous portrayals, whether that be Leto’s, Ledger’s, or Nicholson’s, but the teaser trailer appears to show a different side of the iconic character.
The change in the makeup, from the murky black circles around the eyes and dark red lipstick (recognisable as symbols of the Joker) to a brighter and more clown-like blue and red combination, is notable and perhaps indicative of a new tone the director, Todd Phillips, is bringing to bear; unlike the previous DC films to feature the character, each portraying a dark, crime-ridden Gotham, it appears the setting of Phillips’ movie resembles less that of a comic book and more that of a real-life city.
The possibility of seeing the character in a more realistic setting is a concept that hasn’t yet been explored and could result in an innovative portrayal of the Joker, which may reveal aspects of the character which were not revealed in his various conflicts with Batman.
Another atmospheric shift apparent in the new trailer is the genre of the film: where previous depictions of the Joker have been action-orientated, the trailer of Joker seems to depict a more experimental style. This can be seen at the start of the trailer, which opens with an unassuming Joaquin Phoenix wearing plain clothes and no makeup, with slow music emphasising the calmness of the scene.
Soon, police sirens begin to sound, and red and blue lights flash onto Phoenix’s face, revealing the new variation of the Joker’s makeup. The trailer then cuts to Phoenix, in full Joker costume, smiling, before contorting his face to a more angered expression. This is an extreme change in tone to the previous films, which are fast-paced and focus on plot, not character. The intentions of the film appear to be different to those of any other involving the Joker, with a more in-depth study of the character.
Phoenix himself stated that prior to accepting the role of the Joker, he was interested in creating a “character study” of a comic book villain, and Joker seems to be just that. From the teaser trailer, and all other information released about the film, it appears that Joker will explore what made the character who he is, his motives, and his intentions.
This potential for a more complex and layered Joker, accompanied by Joaquin Phoenix’s masterful acting, will hopefully produce a successful, unique and interesting film. Joker is scheduled to hit cinemas on October 4, 2019.