Yet another adaptation to the Dark Knight’s psychotic thorn-in-the-side, a standalone Joker film, previewed early this month.
The Ace of Knaves. The Jester of Genocide. The Clown Prince of Crime. Batman’s nemesis has had many personas on the screen as actors continue to pass the purple suit, adding a bit of personal madness each time.
The evolution of Joker’s character testifies to the beauty of method acting, as each actor’s adaptation gives a taste unique in and of itself.
And this is the perfect character to keep ‘revisualizing,’ as one comic book storyline turns even Bruce Wayne’s mother into the clown.
Cesar Romero’s first attempt in 1966 was comical, not in the intended way, but set a necessary pace for great things to come. But who could blame him? Adam West’s Batman carried shark repellent in his utility belt.
Then along came Jack Nicholson, just short of 10 years after fitting the mold for psychopathic killer Jack Torrance in “The Shining,” who seemed destined to try on the cheap purple suit.
“Batman” in 1989 also slightly touched on the origin of the Joker, something the creators never wanted audiences to fully understand, even though Nicholson’s Joker had a name prior to his transformation, along with a background in the life of crime.
Evident in 2008 with Heath Ledger’s “The Dark Knight” performance, a Joker role was performed in a way that made the clown much more sinister.
The classic scenes where he would approach potential victims with his switchblade involved chilling words regarding abuse, he received from loved ones in the past. Batman never fully understood the villain, and that was the point. That made him stick.
Nicholson even warned Ledger prior to the film’s shooting to be careful, as just playing that role took him to some dark places.
However, as Ledger indulged in method acting, he took the role head on, locking himself in a hotel room and keeping a diary. Director Christopher Nolan let him apply his own makeup for a more authentic touch.
It is speculated that the role played a part in Ledger’s overdose from five prescription medications before the film’s release.
Despite following in the beloved Ledger’s shadow, Jared Leto made history performing the Joker along with the clown’s swoon psychopathic girlfriend, Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie.
However, Leto’s impression also involved isolation through method acting, but turned the role into an underwhelming “bad-boy.”
From fan speculation, the “Bonnie and Clyde” aesthetic lacked the eeriness and mystery that the Joker should always protrude. Other reviews said Leto did a good job despite limited screen time.
The cornerstone of classic Joker animation should also be mentioned, as Mark Hamill’s voice performance for “Batman: The Animated Series”, animated movies and the “Batman: Arkham” video games set high expectations for other voice actors.
Yes, Luke Skywalker voiced the Joker.
Now, Joaquin Phoenix will step into the shoes of the maniacal clown for the first-ever, full-length Joker film. But with so many predecessors, what fresh perspectives can Phoenix bring to the table?
The “Joker” trailer seems to show the glum side of the killer clown’s life, as an origin story would finally convey the reasoning behind all the madness.
Phoenix’s natural disposittion seems to fit the dark role well, as famous roles in the past include many villainous characters, such as murderous son Commodus in “Gladiator.”
DC fans should know by now not to expect continuity. The new Joker character will see a change in face paint, adding several colors on top of the white face and red lips as well as a change in costume. Breaking away from the infamous purple suit from the original comics, the new suit will be primarily red.
Phoenix’s Joker is to be named Arthur Fleck prior to transformation, encountering violent thugs in Gotham City while dressed as a clown. Neither fit with past Joker storylines considering Nicholson’s character was named Jack Napier, for example.
Fans of the Joker love a bit of anarchy, so what’s the harm in shaking things up a bit? “Joker” is set to premiere on October 4, 2019.