Joker 2019: why you should be excited

Joker 2019: why you should be excited

April 12, 2019

As an avid DC comics fan I was initially skeptical of the new “Joker” movie. I will admit that I thought it would just be an attempt to recapture the magic of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. Another concern I had was the choice in director; Todd Phillips has previously directed movies like “The Hangover.” This had me worried that he would give the “Joker” movie a more lighthearted or comedic tone, which would be a gross misinterpretation of the character. However, all my fears were dashed when I saw the teaser trailer. Instead of seeing a farce of a film, as I had expected, I was instead greeted by a creepy yet captivating character study of one of the most infamous supervillains of all time.

 The teaser revealed quite a lot about the film’s aesthetic and tone. For example, the backgrounds of the film seems to suggest that this film will take place in or around 1970-1980. Also, the contrast between the eerie yet positive lyrics of the song “Smile” and the content of the scenes set an anxious tone for the film that encapsulates the idea of a man falling into madness. Overall, the teaser shows that this film will be far different from any other recent superhero movie. Instead of a big budget blockbuster film set in a greater universe, this film seems to be a stand alone low-budget character study.

Beyond the excellent cinematography shown in the teaser, the trailer also dropped a few hints of the plot as well as possible inspiration the film is drawing from. In terms of inspiration, the tone and aesthetic shown in the teaser seems to be reminiscent of Martin Scorsese movies. One movie in particular that came to mind while watching the trailer was the movie “Taxi Driver.” The appearance of Robert De Niro later in the teaser further added to my suspicion of Scorsese’s influence. Upon investigating further into the film’s inspiration, I found that De Niro is playing some sort of talk show host which is reminiscent of his role in another Scorsese movie called “The King of Comedy,” where De Niro played a struggling comedian who kidnaps a talk show host. From the teaser, it seems that Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is also a struggling comedian. The similarities between the films could imply that the Joker will kidnap and or harm the talk show host much like De Niro did in his film.

Despite the clear inspirations from Scorsese movies, the events shown in the teaser are also reminiscent of several iconic “Joker” comics. The aforementioned talk show could also be a reference to the events of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Returns,” in which the Joker goes on a late night talk show and kills the entire audience. However, the teaser also suggests that the film takes some aspects from the most famous Joker origin story, Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke.” While it’s unlikely we will see this Joker in a red hood falling into a vat of acid, there are several similarities between the film and comic. For example, in the comic, Joker is also a struggling comedian before he becomes insane. Another similarity is the character portrayed by Zazie Beetz is who rumored to be the love interest of Phoenix’s Joker. Beetz is said to be a single mother in the film, and in “The Killing Joke,” Joker had a pregnant wife he was trying to provide for, and her death was one of the major factors that led to his transformation into the Joker. As a single mother and love interest for Phoenix’s Joker, Zazie Beetz could play a similar role to that of Joker’s wife in the comic.

Another connection I drew from the teaser was from the movie “Psycho.” Joker’s mother is a major focus of the first part of the teaser, as the initial narration states “Mother always told me…” Joker’s relationship with his mother seemed to be reminiscent of the creepy relationship between Norman Bates and his mother. However, upon revisiting the teaser, his mother could also represent a small bit of light in his otherwise depressing life. Of course this suggests that he would eventually lose his mother, setting him down the path to becoming the Joker.

The last major inspiration I gleaned from the teaser was from the costume. I initially saw similarities between Phoenix’s costume and Heath Ledger’s. But when looking at the costume color and the design of the make up, I actually see a lot of similarities between this Joker costume and the Cesar Romero Joker costume. Both costumes share a similar color palette, bright purple with a green undershirt. Also the giant red lip makeup used in the teaser looks more like Romero’s than Ledger’s. Since Romero was the first version of the iconic villain to appear on the screen, the costume could be an homage to the first Joker.The aesthetic and tone set by the teaser suggest that this iteration of the Joker won’t be your typical CGI filled superhero blockbuster. Instead, the teaser reveals that his film will be a low budget character study of one of the most iconic villains of all time. The clear inspirations taken from Scorsese as well as the comics bode well for the film appealing to both moviegoers and comic fans. While it is too early to say whether or not Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of this legendary character will live up to other iconic versions like Heath Ledger’s Joker, from what we have seen so far, this film is taking the clown prince of crime in a new direction that still pays homage to the character origins. It seems that 2019’s “Joker” is shaping up to be a blend of the best aspects of what makes the Joker a truly captivating villain and will surely translate into a captivating film.

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