"I used to think my life was a tragedy, but now I realise it's a comedy," says the Joker being played by Joaquin Phoenix in the upcoming standalone film based on DC's most loved yet hated villain of all time. Warner Bros released the first trailer of the origin story directed by Todd Phillips at the CinemaCon event in Las Vegas. It has only been a few hours, and the comparisons between the allegedly undefeatable Joker as played by Heath Ledger and Joaquin's own crack at the twisted and menacing 'Clown Prince of crime' has already commenced.
The official account of the Joker movie as well as DC comics posted the trailer on Twitter on April 3.
The Twitterati immediately caught on, pinpointing the underlining meanings in the dark, dingy 'real world' that shows the creation and rise of the maniacal character, the story of a regular guy that grows into a creepy baddie. At the time of publishing, both the hashtags - #Joker and #HeathLedger - are trending yet again.
The comparisons don't end but here are a few references in the trailer that must be highlighted:
1. The trailer also shows Arthur (Phoenix) walking along the streets of Gotham City, which in a way reflects the streets that used to be depicted in the comics with similar tones of shades to the characters, with gloomy alleys, tall buildings and huge LED sign boards. More importantly, it shows 'Holmes Pharmacy' that hints at Sherlock Holmes, known to have crossed ways with Batman many times in the comics.
2. The white blue and red masks worn in the movie are a subtle reminder of the mask worn by Heath Ledger in the opening heist scene in The Dark Night.
3. The trailer gives you the first glimpse of the famous - rather, infamous - 'Joker laugh' which, arguably, was pulled off so well by Heath Ledger's Joker that DC fans may still hear it when they close their eyes.
4. One of the most brilliantly projected scenes in the trailer is the staircase scene, as in the beginning, a gloomy and defeated Arthur ascends the stairs and in the end, as he descends the same long flight he embraces the gloominess of the world that was wearing him down, and that has made him who he is.
5. Also, the trailer very briefly shows clips of Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who seems to be making a run for the position of Mayor of Gotham City. He is criticising the masked 'cowards' on Gotham's streets, referring to the Joker. This also foreshadows the connections between the Joker and the Wayne family that resurface in Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight'.
There have been stories going around social media as to Ledger and Pheonix being friends. As Ledger's work represents an untouchable standard for many Batman fans, any other actor would have been hesitant to step into his clown shoes. But Phoenix had said that that is not the case with The Joker because the comic book characters function differently from any other literary characters. He said that since comic book superheroes and villains have different runs and storylines written by different authors, many different interpretations of the same character get created.
The movie carries shades of Martin Scorsese, with the concepts of modern crime and guilt being a running theme. The film also stars Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp and Brett Cullen in the lead roles. This movie is also the first of the DC-based films that are separate from the shared DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Jointly scripted by director Philips and Scott Siler, it is produced under the banner of Warner Bros and DC Films.
Batman has a lot of enemies like the Riddler, Penguin and Two-face, but no one has charmed and enamoured people with his dark demeanour and compelling creepiness like the Joker. For fans taking either of the two sides and raising questions, such as 'Will Phoenix's Joker to live up to Ledger's?' and 'Will it even come close?', the answer will be revealed on October 4.
Till then do what Joker's mother told him to do: "Smile and put on a happy face."
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