For the past couple of weeks, the Internet has been set ablaze by the final trailer for the new Joker movie. As the critics’ reactions to the film came pouring in, the buzz has continued to grow. So what should potential viewers expect from a comic-book movie that is so different from its predecessors?
Joker is an origin story of the iconic Batman villain. However, Batman will not be present in the film, as the story will be completely focused on The Joker. The film is set in 1981 and follows Arthur Fleck, an aspiring stand-up comedian who works as a clown-for-hire by day. As Fleck is ostracized by society, he slowly begins to descend into madness, leading to his transformation into the Clown Prince of Crime.
Joker took some inspiration from the comics, but the majority of the film is unrelated to the source material. In comparison to Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, which is universally considered to be the definitive Joker origin story, both Jokers aspire to be comedians and are down on their luck, but the similarities stop there. In The Killing Joke, the man who will become The Joker is coerced into aiding two criminals through a chemical plant. When trouble ensues and Batman intervenes, he jumps into a vat of acid to escape. This causes him to be permanently disfigured and he is driven completely insane, marking the birth of The Joker. Todd Phillips, who conceived, directed, and co-wrote Joker, felt that the character’s origin was too unrealistic, as he wanted a more gritty and realistic portrayal in the film. Phillips explained, “We don’t believe that if you fall into a vat of acid, you get a white face and green hair, so everything was, let’s run it through as realistic a lens as possible.”
Phillips’ unconventional approach to the film and the character played a big part in attracting Joaquin Phoenix to accept the role of The Joker. Phoenix had high praise for Phillips’ creative vision, saying, “I think he’s very impressive and he seems to have a very interesting understanding of this world and what he’s trying to say. And so there is something very appealing about that and working with him on this particular project. It feels unique, it is its own world in some ways, and maybe, mostly, it scares the *expletive* out of me or something. It might as well be the thing that scares you the most.” Other notable cast members include Zazie Beetz as Arthur’s love interest, Frances Conroy as Arthur’s mother, and Robert De Niro as a talk show host that plays an important role in Arthur’s transition into The Joker.
It is safe to say that Joker will not be like other comic-book movies. There will not be any extravagant CGI or mass destruction. It is not a piece in a puzzle to a larger story that integrates other films within the same continuity. Joker is its own entity with no limitations, which is why one can be sure to expect the unexpected when watching this movie.