This morning, Warner Bros and DC Comics released their first look at the Todd Phillips directed Joker film, set to be released this October. While the project has always sounded like a very experimental prospect, seeing it in action just made us all the more aware of how exciting this film could be. Not only is it a period piece, but it’s also a version of the Joker we’ve never seen before; a man who we literally get to see crumble before our eyes.
And along the way through the Cliff’s Notes version that the trailer presented us of said downfall, there were some interesting nods and clues that show a very interesting first look at what the world of Joker is going to look and feel like. Some are quick references to history, others are interesting points of interest that have us thinking what they’ll mean in the long run. All are present in the first trailer for Joker, which you can watch below before we start to dive into the deeper details:
Now let’s take a look at some of the little things scattered through Joker’s trailer that caught our eye.
The Bob Kane Tribute
One of the legendary forces behind Batman’s creation, Bob Kane was one of the two men that made the Caped Crusader the man that he is. The same applies for his archnemesis, as The Joker was also one of Kane’s legendary creations. So throughout the Batman universe, it’s been a tradition to include his name among the various easter eggs that can be found through various mediums, and Joker gives up one pretty quickly. At the beginning of the trailer, if you look closely at the ID tag of the social worker that’s speaking with Arthur, you’ll see that her name is Debra Kane, undoubtedly a nod to the man who helped both Gotham’s greatest hero, and its biggest villain, come to living breathing life.
What would a movie taking place in Gotham be without having at least one reference to the richest, most visible family that lives in the city? Though judging by what we’ve read on Joker’s plot, as well as its cast of characters, it feels like the Waynes will make more than just cameo appearances in the film. Still, when the name “Wayne Hall” flashed up on the screen, it was something we’d totally have noticed without the gold letters and spotlights. Though judging by what we’ve heard about the incarnation of Thomas Wayne in this film, that was probably the only way to play this whole thing.
During the split second of Wayne Hall’s exterior being shown, it’s revealed that Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times is playing at the grand opening of that very event space in the fall. This is doubly interesting, first because Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur has a bit of a Charlie Chaplin-esque look about him when he’s dancing as a sign spinner towards the beginning. So one of his comedic influences is, undoubtedly, The Tramp himself. But even more surprising is the fact that Modern Times was a satire that drew attention to the economic hardship of the Great Depression era worker, which looks like something the Wayne family didn’t take into account when deciding to use it as their self-named hall’s opening event.
Thomas Wayne Gets Political
As if on cue at the thought of his very name, Thomas Wayne appears in the trailer for Joker. First coming in as a voiceover, but then showing his face through actor Brett Cullen, Thomas is afraid for Gotham City. He thinks it's lost its way, and that only a cold blooded coward in a mask could perpetrate the crime he's lamenting in this clip. It very well may be a murder, probably Arthur's first in a possible series. But even scarier is the fact that we've previously assumed that while Thomas isn't the same man he's portrayed to be in previous incarnations, his deadly fate might be just the same. In which case, this sort of taunting might not be wise in hindsight.
A Very Different Arkham
Arkham Asylum is one of those locations that undeniably anchors the Batman series in the consciousness of its fans. Usually depicted as a high tech facility with all the bells and whistles and an extremely gothic flavored decorative style, it’s where all of the baddies that Batman catches tend to go to. Before they break out into the world again, that is. But in Joker’s version of Arkham, it’s not even labeled as an asylum, as it’s known in this world as Arkham State Hospital. And rather than look like somewhere you’d expect The Riddler to be hatching his next, post-escape plan, it looks like the sort of run down mental facility you’d expect from the 1980’s lowest of lows. Gritty realism has found a new way to infiltrate the world of Gotham, and it’s super effective.
The Killing Joke
One of the plot aspects that’s been brought to mind with Joker is the fact that Arthur is trying to be a stand-up comedian during the course of the film. We see several shots of him going to Pogo’s Comedy Club, laughing it up, and eventually taking his own spot on the main stage. Which nails one particular Batman story right on it’s head: The Killing Joke. Part of The Joker’s origins in the Alan Moore penned story involved him being a frustrated wanna-be comedian, in the hopes of going pro and caring for his pregnant wife. While there’s no wife here, there is his mother. And as we see in some flashes of footage, it looks like he might make it to a certain point of stardom as a funnyman. Which leads us to one of the most surprising references in this entire trailer.
The King Of Comedy
Martin Scorsese’s underrated classic The King of Comedy told the story of, get this, a frustrated wanna-be comedian who would do anything to get his moment in the spotlight. That film’s protagonist was played by none other than Robert DeNiro, which was a fact that was not unseen when his casting in Joker was announced to be for the role of a TV host that drives Arthur mad. With Scorsese executive producing this film as well, it feels like Joker is a pseudo remake of that very film, with DeNiro playing a role similar to the one Jerry Lewis played against him in the original. Extra bonus points go towards the production designers for invoking the look of the 80’s era sets that Johnny Carson used during his tenure as the host of The Tonight Show.
Bruce Wayne Behind Bars
Just as I discussed the inclusion of the Wayne family in Joker, there was one pretty big piece of that puzzle dropped into place during a scene where Arthur befriends a little boy. That young lad seen in the trailer just happens to be none other than Bruce Wayne, as played by Dante Pereira-Olson. Separated by a gate with iron bars, Arthur tries to get his young friend to smile, albeit in a creepy, hands on sort of way. How this budding friendship will turn out is yet to be seen, but if our hunch is correct, it’s not going to last for long, if it gets to start at all.
We’ve still got some time between now and Joker’s debut in theaters, and a whole bunch of surprises are probably still waiting to be thrust upon the public at the right time. In fact, I could still be totally wrong about what we think is going to happen in the film. But what's been seen so far is promising, and definitely invoking the right spirit to become a socially subversive take on a classic comic villain. You could even say, it puts a smile right on our faces.