After a string of films that veered into more campy territory including Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC Comics appears to be returning to a grittier style of filmmaking with director Todd Phillips' upcoming take on the Joker character.
Starring a haunting, emaciated Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, the standalone film appears to focus on the psychotic clown's origin story, from meager beginnings as a sign-spinning clown holding up advertisements for a local store to the multiple beatings he sustained that led to the breakdown of his already fragile mental stability. One scene shows the character's famously creepy laugh as he sits alone on a graffiti-riddled subway before a nearby group of suited men ask, "What's so funny, freak?" and leave him beaten on the train floor.
A sweeping cinematic score and deep, ominous hues populate the various shots throughout, hinting at a much darker look at the Joker than audiences have seen in his past few reprisals. The centerpiece of it all appears to be Phoenix's transformation from battered entertainer to power-hungry maniac, and the terrifying slip into psychosis that drives it. "I used to think that my life was a tragedy," Phoenix recites during a dramatic montage in which he dances alone naked then beats his made-up face against a pane of glass, "but now I realize it's a comedy."
Joker, featuring actors Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Frances Conroy and more, hits theaters October 4th via Warner Bros. Pictures.