HahaHAHAAHAahahaHAHA! Why are we laughing so maniacally? It might have something to do with the first teaser for Todd Phillips' Joker origin film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, Her) in the title role. Our first glimpse at one of the most highly anticipated comic book films of the year finally dropped today.
Set in Gotham City (circa 1981), the movie, heavily influenced by Alan Moore's The Killing Joke (1988), finds Arthur Fleck (the man who will eventually become the Joker) turning to a life of crime when his comedy career doesn't pan out the way he'd like.
With its liberal use of voiceover and Jimmy Durante's "Smile" set to Fleck's own downward spiral into insanity, it looks like Phillips is going for a Taxi Driver/Goodfellas type of approach with this project. This was first noted by those who first saw the footage at CinemaCon last night in Las Vegas.
It makes a lot of sense, as Martin Scorsese was reportedly attached to the film when it was first announced in the summer of 2017. Not that we're complaining, of course—such a gangster-ish and avant-garde narrative style is something we haven't really seen before in a comic book movie.
Watch the first teaser now:
“I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize it’s a comedy," says Arthur, who bops around the city as a sign twirler, stand-up comedy patron, and visitor to Arkham mental hospital. He's trying to find his way in the world, attempting to fulfill his mother's constant reminders that he's meant to bring joy and laughter to the world.
That's a pretty tall order, because the Gotham depicted in the trailer is dirty, grimy, gritty, and full of inconsiderate jerks. "Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” muses our protagonist as he gets beat up in alleyways and on subway trains. Eventually he gives in to the moral decay all around him, blending his love of always looking on the bright side with his own dark inclinations, which are fueled by the city itself.
As the footage closes out, we're given a look at the villain's final sense of fashion: full clown makeup and a crisp three-piece suit that makes us fondly remember Heath Ledger's take on the character in 2008's The Dark Knight.
The supporting cast for the comic book film is just as impressive as its lead: Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), Marc Maron (GLOW), Shea Whigham (First Man), Bill Camp (The Leftovers), Douglas Hodge (Black Mirror), Frances Conroy (American Horror Story), Bryan Callen (The Hangover), Brett Cullen (The Shallows), and Robert freakin' De Niro (Taxi Driver).
When it comes to the specifics of everyone's roles, we know quite a lot. For example, Beetz is Sophie Dumond, a strong single mother and Fleck's love interest. De Niro (briefly glimpsed in the teaser) is reportedly playing a talk show host inspired by Rupert Pupkin in 1982's The King of Comedy.
Meanwhile, Cullen and Hodges are playing Thomas Wayne (originally to be played by Alec Baldwin) and Alfred Pennyworth, respectively. Wayne appears in the trailer as the sole voice of reason and pseudo-savior in the struggle for Gotham's soul in an era before his son becomes Batman.
Here's the first poster, shared by Phillips on Instagram yesterday:
Phillips (The Hangover) co-wrote the project's screenplay with Scott Silver, the sole scribe of 2002's 8 Mile. Bradley Cooper (the voice of Rocket Raccoon in the MCU) is producing. Per Beetz, the script was constantly being rewritten during principal photography, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. She added that the finished product will be very "gritty and dark."
During the shooting process, many behind-the-scenes photos and videos were released online by Phillips himself, an uncommon occurrence for such a big studio film. Even so, it was pretty much genius, allowing the director to prevent leaks by controlling the flow of information and overall narrative.
Joker chuckles into theaters on Oct. 4.
What did you think of the first teaser? Does it look and sound like Phoenix has what it takes to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Nicholson, Hamill, and Ledger? Is he an improvement over Leto in Suicide Squad? Sound off in the comments below!