I’m a Batman fan with a happy face. Warner Brothers unveiled the teaser trailer for director Todd Phillips’ Joker earlier this morning, and it looks like dynamite. The film is an origin story and a character study of the clown prince of crime and stars a crazed Joaquin Phoenix in the role. In a total departure from Jared Leto’s unique portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis, Phoenix plays the Joker similar to Heath Ledger’s turn in The Dark Knight, but with its own nuances that make the performance his own in just a meager two minutes of footage.
Joker looks mean and serious. The trailer fittingly recalls Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, the story of a troubled man played by Robert De Niro descending further into madness. Scorsese is a producer on Joker, and De Niro himself appears in the movie. Phoenix appears as a lost man attempting to discover his purpose in an unforgiving Gotham City. Also like Taxi Driver, Joker looks like it’s going to be a spectacularly miserable film.
The dark tone is striking especially considering Todd Phillips’ ouvre. His filmography is filled with bro comedies like Old School and The Hangover films, yet as Jordan Peele has shown, comedy and thrills are mirror duplicates. From this perspective, Todd Phillips is a perfect fit to make a depressing film about a character who finds the grotesque to be hysterical.
Joker releases on October 4, 2019.