'Joker' Trailer Reaction: Joaquin Phoenix Ain't Your Daddy's Clown Prince Of Crime [CinemaCon 2019]

At CinemaCon, the convention for movie theater exhibitors, Warner Bros. unveiled the first trailer for Todd PhillipsJoker, which features Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. The trailer will be released online tomorrow, but in the meantime, read on for a recap from /Film's Peter Sciretta and Ben Pearson, who were there in person to see the debut.

Before he showed the CinemaCon crowd the trailer, director Todd Phillips called the film "a tragedy." According to Phillips, "There's been a lot of chatter about what this film is and isn't and a lot of it hasn't been very accurate." So just what is this Joker movie? Based on what the crowd saw, it's a gritty '70s-looking crime movie. Think Taxi Driver, but with the Joker. And the entire trailer is scored to Nat King Cole's "Smile."

"My mother always tells me to smile and put in a happy face," Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck says at the start. "She told me I had a purpose – to bring laughter and joy to the world. Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?"

The footage contains Phoenix's Fleck dressed as a clown – more of a generic clown, not quite the Joker yet – working as a sign spinner for a company. Thugs jump him and steal his sign, and he chases after them into an alley. This turns out to be a mistake, as Arthur is promptly whacked in the face with his own signage. From here, the trailer descended into a series of quick shots: a crowd of people dressed like the Joker, fighting cops outside of a building. A patient squirming on a gurney in an elevator. Phoenix's Arthur looking at himself in a mirror, sans makeup, stretching his smile out with his fingers. Arthur dancing in a living room with his mother (Frances Conroy). And just to remind you that this film is still set in Gotham City, there's a shot of Arthur strolling towards a run-down looking Arkham Asylum.

"I used to think my life was a tragedy," Arthur says, "but now I know it's a comedy." The pièce de résistance moment arrives at the very end, when Arthur, fully transformed into the Joker, gets into an elevator, the camera on his makeup covered face as the doors close.

Joker "centers around the iconic arch-nemesis and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. The exploration of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a man disregarded by society, is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale." Robert De NiroZazie BeetzBill CampFrances ConroyMarc Maron, and Shea Whigham co-star. The script was continuously rewritten during filming, and eventually found its identity as an origin story and a "character study of a mentally ill person that becomes the Joker."Joker arrives in theaters on October 4, 2019.