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How does Jared Leto’s Joker fit into Zack Snyder’s Justice League? He plays a harbinger of doom

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Feb 9, 2021, 12:36 PM EST

After the negative reception to the Joker in 2016's Suicide Squad, Jared Leto is getting a second chance to redeem his take on the Clown Prince of Crime in Zack Snyder's Justice League (premiering on HBO Max next month). Until now, we suspected that the classic Batman villain was part of Lex Luthor's plan to found the Legion of Doom at the very end of the movie, but that's not the case.

But speaking with Vanity Fair, Snyder revealed that the character is actually a harbinger of doom — a sort of Christmas Carol-y apparition who warns Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck) about what the Earth will look like, should Darkseid (Ray Porter) succeed in conquering the planet.

“The cool thing about the scene is that it's Joker talking directly to Batman about Batman,” the director said of the psychic dream sequence that ties into the now-famous Knightmare vision from Dawn of Justice. “It's Joker analyzing Batman about who he is and what he is. That’s the thing I also felt like fans deserved from the DC Universe. That is to say, the Jared Leto Joker and the Ben Affleck Batman, they never really got together. It seemed uncool to me that we would make it all the way through this incarnation of Batman and Joker without seeing them come together. The scene explains why Bruce had the Joker card taped to his gun that you see in Batman v Superman.”

Interestingly, the idea to bring back the Caped Crusader's ultimate nemesis wasn't part of Snyder's original plan once he got the green-light to revisit this crossover project. “The Joker is really the only thing that I thought of in retrospect,” the filmmaker admitted. "But I will say that it was always my intention to bring Joker into that world.” 

Vanity Fair also debuted some first look images at Leto in full costume, and they're a far cry from the Joker we first saw depicted in Suicide Squad. In this fresh cut of Justice League, Joker looks a lot more menacing with a mane of long hair, a powdered white face, crimson red lips, heavily shadowed eyes, and no forehead tattoos or shiny grilles to speak of.  “I would say that there's been some water under the bridge. Who knows what's happened,” Snyder said of Joker's new look. "I don't know if he's wearing makeup, I don't know what's happening. It’s hard to say exactly.” 

Clocking in at four-hours-long, Zack Snyder's Justice League arrives on HBO Max Thursday, March 18.