joker video

Todd Phillips just gave us our first look at Joaquin Phoenix in Joker make-up. Maybe. The teaser video definitely shows Phoenix made-up to look like a clown, but is this his final Clown Prince of Crime look, or just a taste of things to come? Watch the Joker video below.

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Camera test (w/ sound). Joker.

A post shared by Todd Phillips (@toddphillips1) on

And just like that, I’m…kind of sold on the Joker movie? Look, even though Todd Phillips has assembled an incredible cast for this thing – Joaquin Phoneix, Frances ConroyZazie BeetzMarc Maron, Robert De NiroShea Whigham, Bill Camp and more – the idea of a standalone Joker movie always struck me as a dumb idea.

But there’s something about this teaser that intrigues me. This clearly isn’t an actual scene in the film – it’s just meant to be a tease. But the way the camera zooms in on Phoenix’s face as “Laughing” by The Guess Who plays, and the dead-eyed look Phoenix gives even while grinning, is effective. I also like how different the make-up here looks. I doubt this is the final Joker look for the film – this is likely from earlier in the story, before he evolves into the full-blown Joker. But the fact that Phillips isn’t going for a traditional Joker look here, nor trying to recreate Heath Ledger’s now-iconic visage, is a bold move.

I still have no idea if this movie will turn out to be good. But this video did the trick – it converted me from skepticism to cautious optimism. In the still-untitled Joker movie (it’s probably just going to be called Joker, right?), Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a struggling stand-up comedian, who eventually becomes the Joker. That plot line seems to be lifted from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s graphic novel The Killing Joke, in which we learn the Joker’s origin story: he’s a struggling comic who gets involved with some criminals, with the hopes of landing a big payday to provide for his pregnant wife. Then things go very, very wrong. In the years since The Killing Joke‘s release, DC has retconned the Joker many times, and stated that the story isn’t the definitive origin – just one possible scenario.

I still think the Joker works better as a character if we know nothing about him – i.e. the way he was presented in The Dark Knight –  but who knows, this might just turn out to be a pleasant surprise. The Joker movie is described as “an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale,” which makes it sound a bit like Taxi Driver.

The Joker laughs his way into theaters October 4, 2019.

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