Looking more akin to a Pierrot clown than any other previous imagining of the Joker, Joaquin Phoenix deftly waltzes on to our screens to searing violins and Jimmy Durante’s version of Smile. And, in the two minutes forty run time of the trailer, it’s quite clear that this film is going to be nothing like any other previous DC outing.
If anyone can weave seamlessly between vulnerable and unhinged, it’s Phoenix and there are glimmers of this in the Joker trailer. He’s a nobody; a man twirling store signs in a clown costume; an easy target for thugs on the subway and on the streets.
He’s not a supervillain, he’s just Arthur. And yet …
Todd Phillips looks to have created a truly thrilling narrative – one with a clear backstory for one of Batman’s most well-known nemesis. The glimpses of Phoenix applying his auguste-clown make up and forcing himself to “put on a smile” are really unsettling – particularly when you see him stick his fingers in a small child’s mouth and encourage him to grin.
The trailer is swamped in atmospheric greens and dark shadows. It offers no hint of violence or the rise to infamy of the Joker. There are no wild CGI effects. It’s just Phoenix, pondering who he is and what his place in the world is. It’s telling a different kind of story.
The film is also set to star Robert de Niro and Deadpool 2’s Zazie Beats, but this trailer truly is all about Phoenix – an actor well known for giving everything he’s got to any role he takes on.
With so much perfectly executed build up around this film, Todd Phillips may well be giving the DC Universe a much-needed hit.
Joker is set for international release on October 4.