How did the Joker become the twisted villain that Batman knows so well?
A debut trailer for the October 2019 film Joker presents its subject as Arthur Fleck, a man caught up in a whirlwind of tragic circumstance and personal failings.
Starting with a scene in a psychiatrist’s office, the trailer presents the Joker as a down-on-his-luck street clown, a dear son caring for his aging mother, a struggling comedian and an object of derision.
What might be an unhealthy relationship with his mother (American Horror Story regular Frances Conroy) contrasts against an evening out with sparkling-eyed Sophie (Zazie Beetz, Deadpool 2).
A check-in to Arkham State Hospital illustrates the difference between Arthur Fleck’s stiff, uncomfortable exterior and his interior, or future, life, with a thrashing patient barely restrained in a gurney by his side.
Sophie hardly registers in the teaser trailer’s run time, but could end up highlighting Fleck’s own role in choosing Joker’s life rather than simply casting him as a victim of heartbreaking circumstance.
Fleck also brushes up against mayoral candidate and Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen, Narcos) and a dazzling talk show host played by film icon Robert de Niro, while as Joker, he even appears to have gathered a following of imitators towards the trailer’s end.
It is then that the opening images of a sullen, defeated Arthur Fleck are finally and resolutely replaced by the fully realised form of a triumphant Joker.
Directed by Todd Phillips (of Old School, The Hangover trilogy and War Dogs), Joker has previously been framed as a unique entry to the DC Extended Universe film franchise, with no bearing on a mainline series that has already installed Jared Leto as the Suicide Squad incarnation of the supervillain.
Yet if the Joker standalone is a success, as this first trailer suggests it will be, are fans going to be satisfied with its status as a one-off?