I attribute a large part of the interest in Joker to the fact that no one knows what to make of it right now. It’s disconnected from the rest of the DCEU, and it’s supposed to be grounded and serious but it’s from a director who’s largely known for comedy, Todd Phillips. That means whenever anything, no matter how miniscule, breaks about the movie, fanboys rush in eager to gobble up any semblance of what this movie could be even though they won’t even have a real inkling until the first trailer drops.
Take for instance these quotes from Marc Maron. Speaking to NME, Maron, who plays Ted Marco in the film, and he says that it’s not really a conventional comic book movie. “The approach that Todd Phillips has taken is more of an origin story and a character study of a mentally ill person that becomes The Joker,” says Maron. He added, “It’s more of an intimate and gritty movie with a very specific scope. It’s going to be really interesting to see how it comes out.”
This seems to position Joker not as a typical comic book movie but probably something closer in tone to something like Logan—a drama that happens to feature a character from superhero comics. The issue is that Logan has the help of audiences already being on board with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and he’s the only person who has ever played Wolverine. You can make it a drama because the audience is already there, and they’re willing to take the next step. Joker is much tougher because Joaquin Phoenix will be the fourth person to play the live-action role, and even though Phoenix is a terrific actor, all Joker performances are now in the shadow of Heath Ledger’s work in The Dark Knight.
That’s not to dismiss Joker before we’ve seen it, but simply to acknowledge that this film doesn’t just sell itself. It’s got some hurdles to clear, and while taking the Joker very seriously is all well and good, it remains to be seen if that approach will pay off for Phillips.
Joker opens October 4th.