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The “Joker” Photo

Hopefully, the WB is joking.

Suicide Squad is the upcoming film in which many of the well-known DC villains will take part in some kind of mission, but it is perhaps most well known for having a new take of the most iconic comic book villain of all time: the Joker. The iconic role will be played by Jared Leto. But what will this version of the iconic character be like?

That’s the question that everyone wants to know. What can Leto and the writers of the film come up with, and can it possibly be something worth speaking about in the context of both Jack Nicholson’s and Heath Ledger’s takes on the character?

The first thing people want to know is what this new Joker will look like, as his appearance would offer some bit of insight as to how this character might be played. The studio, and Leto himself, have been sending us a few hints over the last couple of months, including a shot where he’s holding a camera (meant to be a call back to the iconic “Killing Joke” cover) but now the first official image has been released. We can only hope that the studio is joking.

Jared Leto in a non-iconic version of the iconic role.
Jared Leto in a non-iconic version of the iconic role.


Has Batman been fighting Marilyn Manson all this time?

He looks crazy, sure, but this is not the first editorial to note that this doesn’t really “feel” like the Joker. Yes, he has green hair, but this just isn’t the Joker. He just looks… uh…. like a fake goth rock fan.

The tattoos don’t work. I mean: the Joker having tattoos is something that any Joker fan would be interested in seeing, but would he – the calculating and manipulative character we know as the Joker – take the time to have someone tattoo “Ha ha ha ha etc.” all over his skin? It’s – obvious. It’s – not subtle. It’s – not clever. If the Joker wanted a tat, he wouldn’t want that. Plus, look at the smearing on the bottom of some of the letters. Clearly, those are not real tattoos.

The skull with jester cap is also a bit obvious. A smiling mouth on his arm? The word damaged on his forehead?

When Christopher Nolan conceived his version of the Joker with Heath Ledger playing the part, both he and Ledger figured out ways to create something that would resonate, something that would allow The Dark Knight to capitalize on all the things that make this character great, namely his sick sense of humor and his moral ambiguity: everything about the character would accentuate themes found within the film.  This Joker – with his all-too-obvious tattoos- seems to have been concocted by some suits who seem to have never read a comic book before, and they probably agreed upon what tattoos this joker would have at some early morning board meeting. Bring the Foldgers.

Nothing else works about this Joker. He doesn’t have the Joker smile, or the Joker lips. The false teeth (possibly necessary because  Batman probably knocked out his teeth at some point) just look unappealing in a wholly, uh, unappealing way.

There’s really not much to say. The most that can be said is that he looks unhinged and crazy. The problem is that he looks crazy and unhinged in the most – rehearsed – way. It’s like they are trying to damn hard to make him look crazy.

Historically speaking, publicity stills have always been unhelpful for the upcoming films they promote. Look at any cover of Entertainment Weekly that is pimping a new film months ahead of it’s released; sure, EW might give  a first shot of a superhero or iconic character in their costume, but often the lighting is too bright and makeup is just a bit off, and the result is uncinematic. I don’t trust early publicity photos, and not just the ones in that magazine (though I wanted to caution people for fawning over those issues). Early publicity photos often have the same issues. Case in point is the early photo’s of Ledger’s Joker. He looks interesting and joker like, but the fact that they shot these photos of him against a plain background with flat lighting – well it does the Joker no favors.

Ledger (sans any pathos) in front of the studio lights.
Ledger (sans any pathos) in front of the studio lights.

Imagine if, instead, this was the first photo we ever saw of the Joker.

Greetings, Commissioner!
Greetings, Commissioner!

Or, maybe, my favorite still of him:

I'm not a monster; I'm just ahead of the curve!
I’m not a monster; I’m just ahead of the curve!

It doesn’t matter, because when The Dark Knight finally opened, we got a chance to see what Ledger was up to: and he created a Joker more fascinating than anyone had imagined. So maybe – just maybe – Leto and his Suicide Squad producers are up to something truly fascinating as well.
But the more I look at this picture, I keep thinking that maybe its a publicity shot for a character in Harmonix’s new Rock Band game.

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Comments (1)

You’ve just articulated why I love Ledger’s Joker so much – he’s subtle and his madness is internalized. It’s not necessarily in the make-up, but in his tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and choice of words. It looks real. On the other hand, the photo of Leto as the Joker looks fabricated by someone who didn’t feel like putting much thought into recreating this character.

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