When Warner Brothers and DC Films announced they would be making a Joker film back in 2017, the reactions from fans were… mixed. Did we really need another film treatment exploring the origins of Batman’s clown-faced nemesis? But now the first trailer for Joker has dropped, and it goes a long way toward putting our doubts to rest.
Joker is intended as a standalone film, with no sequels planned—part of DC Films’ decision to move away from the shared-universe approach of their prior franchise films (aka, the Marvel model). So it has no relation to the Justice League films that came before. That freed Director Todd Phillips to create his own darker, gritty version of this iconic character, with a much smaller budget of $55 million.
Star Joaquin Phoenix was initially reluctant to take on the role, for various reasons. (Seriously, who wants to go up against Heath Ledger‘s legendary performance in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? Plus, Jared Leto was already playing the Joker in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). But he ultimately decided that Phillips’ interpretation was sufficiently unique that he signed on. (It helped that it was for a standalone film; in the past, Phoenix has resisted committing to superhero films that would require him to play the same role in multiple films.) And we’re very glad he did, because Phoenix succeeds in breathing new life into this iconic role.