I am a huge fan of the Joker as a villain. I really dig his craziness, and he puts forth the contradiction of silly and violent. Plus, clowns are freaky, so he’s got that going for him. However, it is difficult to make a story that features him as the main character. He works best as a villain, a response to the insanity of the world, or the harsh rigid control of Batman. In order for him to stand on his own the audience has to see him as sympathetic. And while that may be possible, it is also misses the point of the character. We should never root for the character, which is what the new Joker trailer clearly wants us to do.
The whole look and feel of the trailer wants to remind us of a 1970s flick about a man whose life is in the toilet, and suffers one too many grievances at the hands of society. In the trailer, goons attack him several times. One time they steal his sign and hit him over the head with it when he gives chase. In another scene, they beat him up on the subway. All of this takes place with his voice over about how the city is going to hell. The call backs to Taxi Driver are blatant. Of course, these comparisons make sense, considering Scorsese’s name came up quite a bit surrounding this movie when DC announced it.
Look, Scorsese has made some good films, and people like his aesthetic, especially his 70s aesthetic. However, I don’t think we need this kind of movie right now.
That’s Not Joker in the New Trailer
Sure, they call him Joker, and he wears a clown mask, and later suit reminiscent of Joker’s style. But really, the character looks to be the Clown Prince of Crime in name only. Joker is a psychopath; a sinister murderer, and rapist. We should never feel sorry for him, or have sympathy for him.
In The Killing Joke before he turns into Joker, he’s a chump and a stooge who we don’t feel too sorry for. He maybe deserves our sympathy at that point, but not once he turns into Joker. And how does that happen? He gets pushed into Acme goo and it breaks him. He doesn’t, however, becomes the resident psycho clown of Gotham because he was picked on too much.
Maybe there is some catalyzing event in the film that the new Joker trailer isn’t showing us, but even if there is I don’t know. I don’t need to see another movie about the white guy pushed to him limits and them goes crazy. We’ve seen it in Falling Down (one of my favorite movies, BTW). We also saw it in Taxi Driver. It’s happened in Death Wish, and a variety of other films, and is old hat by this point.
It’s Not a Small Movie
Plus, as arthouse as DC want this movie to look, we have to keep in mind this is a mainstream flick with a wide release. It’s not some indy film that will release in 20 theaters and blow our minds with its choices. It’s a part of a multi-million dollar juggernaut that will just reinforce the white man’s vengeance tale yet again. I am a white dude who tends to enjoy these types of stories, but I don’t need any more of them.
It isn’t necessary to tell a movie where Joker is the hero, or to try to make the audience relate to him. He is the boogeyman, an agent of chaos, insanity in an already insane world. The only Joker stories we should tell are the ones where he gets his comeuppance. Batman handing him his ass? I want to see that. Jim Gordon blowing his kneecap off? Sign me up! Barbara Gordon breaking his spine? I’ll see that movie twice in the theater. Joker is there to hate and despise, not to emulate or adore.
I am not saying audience members will fall in love with Joker in this movie, nor am I saying that’s what DC wants us to do. However, I do find it ambiguous and a little dicey that they have decided to present the new trailer for the Joker movie in this way.
On a positive note, it does have Zazie Beetz in it, and she’s spectacular. Also, Joaquin Phoenix is a good actor, so the performances should be good. It might end up being a good flick, but I won’t be holding my breath.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.