I have always been a sucker for a good trailer breakdown as it gives us a chance to look at the short form art in small digestible fragments. These fragments allow for speculation and insight into what could be and what really is. Today’s Trailer Breakdown is an analysis of the latest teaser trailer from DC’s latest upcoming effort: Joker.
To be clear, I have no foreknowledge of this film. This is just a speculation based on fandom and gleanings from the trailer. Only time will tell if these speculations are right. As always, please feel free to chime in in the comments below.
Let’s start with the full trailer itself.
00:01 Our first shot shows Gotham City itself, not the massive metropolis that we see in later films but still a rather robust city all together. This implies that the city is still rather young possibly giving us a hint at the time period. Note the lack of satiate dishes and cell towers? Maybe sometime in the 70’s or 80’s?
00:07 Almost immediately, we are given a name ‘Arthur’ now we don’t know if this is Joker’s name or the name of another patient (trailers are clever that way) but it gives us a base to work off of. In this opening, it seems that Arthur is talking with a psychiatrist about his depression(?) Assuming that we are talking about Joaquin Pheonix’s character, this is the fist time we are given a name to the Clown Prince of Crime so early in the production and it is a very new one. According to IMDB his full name is Arthur Fleck. Usually he is known as Jack Napier (coming from the 1989 Batman) but this time we are given the simple name of Arthur. I wonder how this will play out or if it is even a real name.
00:15 It seems ‘Arthur’ takes care of his mom, or once took care of her. It does seem a little creepy that he is bathing her but we really don’t know the situation at this point and we are only assuming that this is indeed his mother. According to IMDB this is Penny Fleck implying that it could be his mother or, possibly an older wife? I doubt the latter though as the monologue references his mother. The monologue also refers to her in the past tense implying that she is no longer in his life. Could her death be the catalyst for his criminal rampage?
00:19 But then we see Arthur seeming to be in anguish after he states ‘my mother once told me to smile and put on a happy face’. This lends more credence to the ‘death’ of his mother as being the spark that begins his decent into madness. Joaquin Phoenix is known for his dedication as a method actor, even going a far as to learning to play guitar from scratch and only answering to ‘J.R.’ on the set of Walk the Line. More recently he retired from acting and started a music career which turned out to be a very elaborate preparation for his film ‘I’m Still Here’. It looks like he is taking a page out of Christian Bale’s book and giving his body a full physical change as well.
00:23 ‘She told me I have a purpose’ Once again, past tense. Here we get the hints of his mental issues with the statement ‘the worse part…having a mental ill(ness) is people expect you to behave as if you DONT.’ It is interesting to note that he is using his left hand in this scene. For all we know, actor Joaquin Phoenix is right handed (his brother River was left handed) and this would explain the rough handwriting giving more background into his character.
00:35 After a mugging? by a group of kids who steal his sign (and beat him with it) we see another moment of struggle for Arthur. Note the yellow/orange vest that is very similar to the classic Joker Vest from the comics and even on more modern statues. Sure, he is a clown but this moment seems to be part of the genesis of who he will become.
00:51 According to IMDB this is Sophie Dumond (played by Zazie Beetz). Could she be Arthur’s paramore or maybe someone who rejects Arthur, adding to his insanity? The song playing indicates the latter as it states ‘smile, though your heart is achin’ smile even though it’s breakin’ We see her face and then his when the song says ‘breakin’. Seems rather ominous. She is a new character with no apparent connection to the comics so her role is still a mystery.
0:54 Ah, Arkham. We knew this institution would have to appear at some point and, instead of the classic Gothic look, we get a very sterile ‘Arkham State Hospital’. Is Arthur visiting someone or is he going there to talk to his psychiatrist from the beginning of the trailer?
00:58 Assuming that this is inside Arkham. It is clear that he does not want to be there. Note his clenched fists. Could the cop behind him be Harvey Bullock?
01:06 We get our first taste of his proto-Joker laugh and you can hear the hints of where it is going. It seems that he is attending comedy shows and is a fan of humor, which fits with the character perfectly.
01:11 I have to wonder if this scene is not right after the death of his mother(?) or maybe a rejection. Note the tear streaming down his cheek. It is clear he is in pain but, as the classic song ‘Tears of a Clown’ puts it
‘Now they’re some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown when there’s no one around’
01:28 Right after what looks like a brutal beating on the subway after Arthur goes manic he is seen running through the city at night. On the subway he did not appear to have a bag but now does. Is he running from pursuers that intend to kill him or did he turn the tables and kill those that attacked him on the subway? Note the costume evolution to something more Jokerish.
01:33 Immediately after we see Arthur in a police station, apparently captured for a crime? He is in the same outfit as when he was running so maybe they arrested him for what he did to the guys on the subway? The narration over the trailer says ‘Gotham’s Lost It’s Way…’
01:34-01:36 ‘…what kind of coward would do something that cold blooded? Someone who hides behind a mask’ It seems that Arthur is being kicked out of a some building. There are signs for a Charlie Chaplin event implying that it is not the police station. This with crowds holding clown signs, are they protesting his arraignment or something bigger?
01:39 We get more of the physical change Joaquin has gone through. Note the absence of Penny and that he is holding a gun. Could he be responsible for her death? Is the subway scene a red herring? The quote ‘what kind of coward would do something that cold blooded? Someone who hides behind a mask’ could that be referencing the Joker having killed his mother? Surly not!
01:41: We see Arthur(?) in more of his Joker costume being pursued by cops while people in clown masks seem to be trying to get in their way. Is this version of the Joker being seen as some sort of anti-hero or crazed avenger?
01:47 This one really gave me a shock. Could this kid be a Young Bruce Wayne? The age would actually make sense and, according to IMDB actor Dante Pereira-Olson is indeed playing Bruce. In the comics the Joker has always been trying to get Batman to laugh. Could the Clown Prince of Crime sense the pain of Bruce’s loss and this is his earliest attempt at putting a smile on that face? If so, this would make their relationship a much deeper and much more complicated.
01:50 “I used to think my life was a tragedy” We see Arthur on the stage. Maybe this was his first attempt at standup comedy taking a nod from The Killing Joke backstory where he was a failed comedian?
01:56 But then, under the persona of the Joker, it appears he has success. Could this be a Jekyll and Hyde telling of the Joker? Could the Joker be Arthur’s dark secret or inner rage come manifest?
02:07 ‘Now I realize, it’s a comedy’ Our first real look at The Joker. Everything but the makeup fits in with the classic character we have known with the makeup still holding onto the last remnants of the classic clown motif.
02:15 We finally get the title card. Note the absence of a key part of The Joker’s name. ‘THE’. This is simply ‘Joker’ setting it apart from all that have come before it.
02:20 We are left with a parting shot that gives a glimpse of Joker’s smile. It’s just a hint as his full smile appears, the screen goes to tell us that this film releases in October.
So there we go. This film seems to truly be a fresh take on the classic villain. Clearly taking place in the DC Universe I really don’t believe that it will be part of the established DC cinematic universe. This one seems far to dark and could be the approach needed for DC to shake the stigma that has plagued their recent releases. We shall see later this year.
Late to the Game 4/6/2019
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