Kevin: Warner Brothers yesterday released the first trailer for its Martin Scorsese-produced, Todd (“The Hangover”/”Old School”) Phillips-directed, Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker origin film, mainly to prove to a skeptical public that a Martin Scorsese-produced, Todd Phillips-directed, Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker origin film is a real thing and not some elaborate prank. The first look at the appropriately named “Joker” immediately invited comparisons to Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” (the latter of which had probably more people referencing it yesterday than have actually seen it since 1982), with film bloggers using words such as “stunning,” “amazing,” “pretentious,” and “who the fuck wanted this?”
Actually that last question may have come from those of us at TGD, but we asked the same thing about last year’s “Venom,” and according to the box office ($850 million worldwide) we were apparently in the minority. We’ll see if our instincts are closer to the general public’s this time when “Joker” is released Oct. 4, coincidentally the same weekend as “Venom” last year:
As expected, many comic geeks are super excited about this seemingly disturbing and gritty treatment of an iconic villain, because they love the idea of comic book movies going dark and serious, until that actually happens and they immediately want them to be fun and lighthearted again. Of course Phoenix has big clown shoes to fill in following up the most popular and beloved Joker of all time: Jared Leto in “Suicide Squad,” which similarly sounded like a horrible idea at the time (“let’s make a movie teaming up a bunch of B-level D.C. villains most people have never heard of”) but which surprised us all by being an even worse movie.
TGD already extensively analyzed the many problems with the film, from the boringly generic villain, to the jarring shifts in tone and confusing editing, to the fact that these supposed “worst or the worst” are pretty fucking lame and tame. But I will admit that my interest in seeing “Suicide Squad” was briefly piqued following the release of its first teaser at Comic Com a year before its release, and which, like “Joker,” gave off a dark and disturbing vibe that was 180 degrees away from the final film:
Set to an ethereal version of “I Started a Joke” (which probably would have been used in “Joker” if it hadn’t already been taken), this teaser establishes a serious and somber mood from the beginning and ramps up the feeling of dread as it goes, and it even makes the Joker seem threatening largely due to the fact that Leto is barely on screen. The world certainly didn’t need a “Suicide Squad,” but the version this seemed to be selling was one I would have been interested in checking out at some point.
Unfortunately that version will remain hypothetical, because the following year the worst thing that had happened to Freddie Mercury’s legacy until Bryan Singer said “hold my anal beads” occurred with the use of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the second “Suicide Squad” trailer:
Now we already are starting to get glimpses of some of “Suicide Squad’s” biggest missteps, including the hordes of undefined CGI henchmen, Leto’s obnoxious interpretation of the Joker, and Scott Eastwood’s … well, just Scott Eastwood. But while writer-director David Ayer’s original vision for the film reportedly was closer to the tone of the first trailer, Warners execs instead decided they wanted the film sold in the second trailer, ordering expensive reshoots to add more humor and bringing in two different editing teams to craft competing films, Ayer’s “serious” one vs. the studio’s “fun” version.
Thus we got the final trailer, which turned out to be a fairly accurate representation of the “Suicide Squad” that was released in theaters, with lots of bad jokes, incomprehensible action, and such overreliance on pop songs that it’s clear the studio wanted this to be their “Guardians of the Galaxy”:
Of course with the director of “Sabotage” and “Bright” behind the camera, “Suicide Squad” was never going to be good, but at least it would have been bad in a distinctive way, unlike the absolute soulless mess that ended up on the screen. But as with “Venom,” “Suicide Squad” was also a hit (what the fuck is wrong with you people?), so from a box office perspective at least the studio was right.
All this is to say that if you are one of those excited about seeing a dark, gritty, and depressing take on the Joker in October, just remember that anything could happen between now and then. We are probably one bad test screening away from hearing that Zach Snyder has been hired to do reshoots and Blink-182 brought on to cover Gary and the Playboy’s “Everybody Loves a Clown” for the soundtrack.