The world will get a taste of director Todd Phillips' Joker when the first trailer debuts tomorrow. But today, we have word out of CinemaCon of what this sneak peek contains. The first footage was shown to exhibitors, and the word on the street is that we're all in for a very dark, tragic and sadistic treat as Joaquin Phoenix dons the make-up of DC's iconic Clown Prince of Crime.
This doesn't sound like your typical DC movie. While Man of Steel and Batman V Superman were dark and humorless, and Aquaman and Shazam were bright poppy splashes of fun, this Joker stand alone movie sounds like a completely different kind of beast altogether. It does not stand in the DCEU, and is not currently connected to any other movie or directly setting up another spin-off. It does however, in the first teaser, contain quite a few iconic pieces of Batman paraphernalia.
Warner Bros. is insisting that this movie is a one-off. There will be no sequels for Joker, which hint at a grim fate for the iconic villain. At least in this incarnation. We already know another version of the Joker will show up for a cameo in Birds of Prey, though it doesn't appear to be either Joaquin Phoenix or Jared Leto playing him. Joker stands on its own two clown shoes.
Director Todd Phillips was on hand to discuss Joker and the footage he brought with him. He says it's a very difficult movie to talk about. He described it as an origin story for an iconic character that has no definitive origin in the DC canon, though there have been various backstories created around the maniacal creep.
"I don't have a lot to say about the film, as it's still taking shape, but also because I want it to be a surprise. That said, there's been a lot of chatter about what this film is and what it isn't and most of it hasn't been accurate. When the marketing department at Warners asked me the other day to describe the movie, I said 'I can't.' They said at least tell me the genre and I thought about it for a minute and said 'it's a tragedy.'"
And from the sounds of the footage, it definitely comes on like a raging tragedy in the truest sense of the word. The teaser kicks off with Arthur Fleck in therapy, giving Joker a real name new to the character. Phoenix says this in voiceover.
"My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose, to bring laughter and joy to the world."
The footage cuts to Arthur bathing his mother, played by American Horror Story mainstay Frances Conroy. We then see the future clown get attacked in the streets of Gotham, and this incident appears to push him down a very dark path. Arkham hospital is shown in fleeting glimpses.Thomas Wayne is seen on TV talking about Arthur Fleck's crime spree. The City of Gotham is name dropped a number of times.
"Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?"
The trailer shows Arthur Fleck trying on different clown outfits as he attempts to discover his true Joker persona. He first dresses as a clown with a big green afro, which we've seen in some of the set photos shared by director Todd Phillips. Fleck eventually dyes his hair green, with the teaser presenting its money shot. Joker is seen in what will be his iconic villain costume. The voiceover continues.
"I used to think my life was a tragedy. But now I realize, it's a comedy."
Joker is coming on the heels of Aquaman and Shazam. The first was a huge blockbuster smash that went onto become the top grossing DC movie of all time, swimming well past $1B at the box office. Shazam opens this weekend, and has been generating very positive reviews and should be another big hit.
Joker is a smaller movie. Quiet in a way. Not a bombastic superhero outing like we're used to. It already looks like a cult experience that may not generate the same type of big box office as its predecessors. But it should break even on its relatively small budget. Joker is in theaters October 3, 2019. It will be followed by Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on Feb. 7, 2020, and Wonder Woman 1984 on June 6, 2020. DC Super Pets will lead off 2021, arriving May 21. It will be followed by The Batman on June 25, 2021, James Gunn's The Suicide Squad on Aug. 6, 2021 and Aquaman 2 on Dec. 16, 2020.
Exhibitors who have seen the first Joker footage are already comparing Joaquin Phoenix to Jack Nicolson and Heath Ledger, though Jared Leto appears to be left out of that conversation. Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Shea Whigham, Frances Conroy, Marc Maron, Douglas Hodge and Brett Cullen all co-star along with Joaquin Phoenix. Here are a couple of tweet reactions from those in attendance.
Joaquin Phoenix’s #Joker paints a portrait of a tragedy & dir. Todd Phillips said he would describe the film as such. “my mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face” Arthur says over a montage of him being beaten down by the world. “Gotham’s lost its way,” he adds.— Piya Sinha-Roy (@PiyaSRoy) April 2, 2019
This is definitely a darker, more grounded Gotham, plagued by a lunatic dressed like a clown. Arkham State Hospital appears - the teaser is set to Nat King Cole’s “Smile”. Way more of a psychological thriller. DC’s darkest movie yet?#Joker#CinemaConpic.twitter.com/2lQ5uMSdtX— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) April 2, 2019
First #Joker teaser gave me full-body chills. “This is a tragedy,” director Todd Phillips said. And yep. That’s exactly it. Haunting.— Crystal Bell (@crystalbell) April 2, 2019
General impression of #Joker is that it looks like a can’t miss film, even if just to watch Joaquin become the character. It also looks beautifully shot; dark and gritty, but crisp with some great Joker iconography. Can’t wait for you all to see it. #CinemaCon— JoBlo.com (@joblocom) April 2, 2019
Todd Phillips says he can't figure out how to describe #Joker, but if he had to pick a genre, "it's a tragedy." Based on the very moody, atmospheric teaser trailer we just saw, I'd say that's apt. #CinemaCon— Devan Coggan (@devancoggan) April 2, 2019
Other things seen in the #Joker trailer: Arkham Hospital, Thomas Wayne talking on TV about how a “coward” commits these crimes “wearing a mask” and lots of Joaquin looking like he’s slowly losing grip. Gotham is mentioned a number of times. #CinemaCon— JoBlo.com (@joblocom) April 2, 2019
First teaser trailer for #Joker shows Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur evolve from a sad, dejected man constantly beaten down into the Joker, dancing on the steps in a red suit and full Joker makeup. “I used to think my life was a tragedy; now I realize it’s a comedy.” #cinemacon— Piya Sinha-Roy (@PiyaSRoy) April 2, 2019