Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s slightly-too-influential Batman comic The Killing Joke establishes what is probably the most believable origin story for The Joker, even if it’s not strictly the canonical origin: A struggling comedian in Gotham City makes a bad deal with the mob and then gets roped into a heist where he has to put on a goofy costume, failing to realize until it’s too late that he’s being set up as bait for a brutal vigilante that recently popped up with a goofy costume of his own. Batman falls for the trick, beats up the dude in the mask, and accidentally knocks him into a vat of madness-inducing chemicals.
That’s not the plot of the Joker movie, though Todd Phillips does set it in Gotham with an everyman-turned-damaged clown. There’s also the added wrinkle of setting the story years before Bruce Wayne ever puts on the cape and cowl. Joaquin Phoenix raised our eyebrows with the little teaser Phillips shared previously, but this trailer is the first time we’ve actually seen him in action and it’s...really sad?
That makes sense, though, as co-star Marc Maron previously described the film as “a character study of a mentally ill person that becomes The Joker.” He added, “It’s more of an intimate and gritty movie with a very specific scope. It’s going to be really interesting to see how it comes out.”
We agree. Phoenix’s wiry, anxiety-ridden body is on full display, as is his co-dependent relationship with his mother, played here by Frances Conroy. Elsewhere, we glimpse a potential romance with Zazie Beetz and what looks to be a crowd-pleasing Robert De Niro. Coupled with the suit Phoenix is wearing both here and in the poster, The King Of Comedy parallels are striking.
Of course, Joker is said to have “ties” to the Scorsese classic, which makes more sense when you remember that Scorsese is a producer on the film. Joker will be in theaters on October 4. Check out that poster below.