Smile… because “Joker” looks pretty good.
On Wednesday, Warner Bros. dropped the teaser trailer (watch above) for its upcoming Joker movie, an origin story of the iconic villain starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips (“The Hangover” trilogy).
Set to Jimmy Durante‘s “Smile,” the teaser follows Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a struggling comedian who’s literally and figuratively so beaten down that he spirals into Gotham City’s criminal underworld, and thus the Joker is born.
“I used to think that my life was a tragedy,” he says. “But now I realize it’s a comedy.”
At CinemaCon on Tuesday, where Phillips and Phoenix debuted the teaser, Phillips called the movie a “tragedy.” A standalone film from the DC Extended Universe — aka it has no ties to Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League — “Joker” definitely looks and feels like the darkest DC film yet. The moody, haunting vibe permeates the trailer, there are some on-the-nose references to “Taxi Driver” (1976) and “The King of Comedy” (1983), and Phoenix is utterly creepy once Arthur descends into madness, stretching his lips into the Joker’s trademark smile and giving us that maniacal laugh.
Phoenix is serving more Heath Ledger (or if we’re really being accurate, Travis Bickle) than Jack Nicholson and Jared Leto as the Clown Prince of Crime. He’s inevitably going to be compared to Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance anyway, but it feels like his twisted turn can stand on its own. There looks to be a sadness to his performance, which in some ways feels more disturbing than Ledger’s sheer batsh– lunacy (in the best way) in “The Dark Knight” (2008).
Whether the Joker can also be Phoenix’s own Oscar-winning role is way too early to say, obviously, but it looks showy, and Phoenix is arguably one of our best working actors who’s yet to win an Oscar. If the film breaks out and he gets enough critical support behind him, don’t rule it out.
“Joker,” which also stars Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin himself Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Bill Camp and Marc Maron, opens Oct. 4.