Warner Bros. gave fans their first glimpse Wednesday of the hotly-anticipated origin story for DC Comics’ criminal crown prince the Joker.
The trailer for Joker dropped a day after the upcoming movie was previewed at the CinemaCon industry convention in Las Vegas, where Warner wowed delegates.
Phoenix’s Joker is at least the sixth live-action interpretation of a character made famous by Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson and taken up a level by Heath Ledger, who won a posthumous Oscar for the role in 2009.
Director Todd Phillips explores the roots of Gotham’s arch-villain, a man beaten down by the world, in what entertainment blog JoBlo called “a really dark and twisted character study”.
“Joaquin Phoenix is living in the role and this will no doubt be another inspired and manic performance from him. If you’re missing the ‘dark’ DC, then here’s your medicine,” it tweeted.
The trailer shows Phoenix as Arthur Fleck before he became an evil-doer: dancing with his mother, working as a street clown and being a victim himself, harassed and assaulted on a subway train.
“My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face,” he muses. “She told me I had a purpose to bring laughter and joy to the world.”
After a group of youths steal the store sign he is holding and smash it in his clown face, he asks: “Is it me or things are getting crazier?”
Only the trademark maniacal cackle presages the darkness that lies ahead.
“I don’t have a lot to say about the film as it’s still taking shape,” said Phillips, a New Yorker known for frat house comedies including the Hangover trilogy and Road Trip.
He told the annual gathering of producers, distributors, and theatre operators that much of the “chatter” about the movie had been inaccurate.
“But I suppose that’s to be expected when you set out to make an origin story about a beloved character that basically has no definitive origin,” he said.