Smile and put on a happy face with the Joker

DC Films, what a strange and tangled picture you weave. After the poor critical reception of blockbuster efforts like Justice League (awful) and Aquaman (even more awful than Justice League), DC is riding a critical renaissance with the freshly opening Shazam!. The film is a blast and once that seems to have the DC ship pointing to more critically prosperous waters.

Then comes the Joker. A character with a rich cinematic history, portrayed by some illustrious names (and Jared Leto) to varying degrees of success. We can only hope future Jokers can crawl their way up to the Nicholsons and the Ledgers- but it starts with the setting, the tone, and the gravitas in which the actor brings to the table.

Joaquin Phoenix could very well be that next great Joker. The tone and setting helps too- Joker, the new film by Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School, The Hangover), is set in 1980s Gotham. With that comes the analog feel of 80s New York– the styles, the colours, the structures – and all that paints a dour looking restless city, one that looks and resonates with authenticism.

Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a struggling stand-up comedian, bullied by life’s hardships, he turns into a life of crime as everyone’s favorite broken clown.

Joker looks darker than previous DC outings, and not in the Zack Snyder kind of way. It looks like there’s substance behind the burden and the pain, one that feels missing from previous DC Films. The film is already spurning the usual hot takes, but for me, the aesthetic and the ambiguity of trying to figure out just what the hell this film will be about spikes my interest.

Will Phoenix’s Joker be better than what Nicholson and Ledger brought to the character? We won’t find out for a few months, but from the trailer, it already feels more significant than the cartoonish caricature of Leto’s most recent turn.

Joker co-stars Robert DeNiro, Frances Conroy, Shea Whigham, and Marc Maron. It opens in cinemas October 4th in the United States. Watch the trailer above.

Why so serious?

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