The final trailer for director Todd Phillips’ Joker is out, and it’s a film that I’m looking forward to covering. Yes, despite it all, including the fact that I think it is unnecessary because we have perfected the Joker, I am curious to see the vision that Phillips has put together, especially with Joaquin Phoenix playing the titular character. So, here we go to watch the trailer!
Oh, angry Black woman at the very beginning. How avant-garde.
When early images of the film were coming out and I realized that it was taking place in the ’80s, it really seemed to channel the ’80s New York crime wave aesthetic. That makes sense, since Gotham is supposed to be a fictional mirror of New York/New Jersey. At the same time, watching this trailer, I couldn’t help seeing the character of Arthur Fleck in this film feeling a lot like Bernhard Goetz, the 1982 New York Subway shooter.
I don’t think the trailer looks terrible, or that this movie is inherently unwatchable because of the optics of it in today’s society. Despite the fact that I think movies should be careful in how they choose to portray violence, I don’t think that movies about violence inherently cause people to act violently. I grew up watching movies about angry white men my whole life, and I’m not a violent person. But, then again, I don’t see myself reflected in the struggles of cynical, disenfranchised white male characters, nor do I look at characters like the Joker as cathartic avatars of my own frustration.
In 2012, when a shooter in tactical clothing committed a mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado during a screening of The Dark Knight, he did so with his hair dyed orange. During the trial, it was said that his actions had been caused due to his dissatisfaction with life and finding work, as well as health issues. Again, I don’t think the shooter committed these atrocities because of the Joker—that takes away too much responsibility from these terrorists—but the character of the Joker has been elevated in a way that feeds into a vicious cycle that is uncomfortable.
People take comfort in that nihilism, in that idea that chaos is fair, the idea that all that stands between good men and bad men is “one bad day.” And although plenty of stress is put on the fact that those ideas will not win in the end, when you put them at the forefront—when you constantly promote the idea in art, because it is seen as deeper or more intrinsically real, with no balance—it does a disservice to the power of art.
I think Joker looks interesting. I’m excited to see a comic book movie in this sort of arthouse style. I think there’s merit in telling stories about chaos, but I think those stories have to be balanced out with heroes. I think a serious, introspective Joker movie without Batman, without some real emotional balance, just seems incomplete. But the movie isn’t out yet, so maybe that hope is there in the end.
We’ll find out when Joker hits theaters this October.
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