You know the phrase turn that frown upside down? Well along comes Joaquin Phoenix to put a deeply twisted spin on proceedings in the brand new Joker trailer.
The eagerly anticipated DC movie strips away the comic book bombast, burrowing into the mind of its deeply disturbed central character. The film is in fact an origin story, focusing on aspiring stand-up comic Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) who, via a combination of environment and mental isolation, begins a transformation into the most feared comic book villain of all time.
In the trailer we get a proper glimpse at the brutish and violent Gotham City environment in which Fleck operates. Visually, it owes more to the world of Taxi Driver's Martin Scorsese, who was originally on board to produce before giving way to regular collaborator Emma Tillinger Koskoff.
Berated and frequently assaulted by those around him, Arthur's central philosophy, to keep on smiling even in the midst of great pain, transmutes into something far more twisted. The film has already been described as a portrayal of mental illness, which is an intriguing approach – in a diversion from blockbuster formula, the comic book trappings would appear to be incidental in favour of character-driven darkness.
Phoenix's portrayal leans into the physical and emotional anguish that has earned him so many fans – there are certainly overtones of his performances in Walk the Line and The Master here. However, there is tenderness, too – Fleck's invalid mother (Frances Conroy) turns out to be the one ray of light in his life, although she is clearly the one who has, inadvertently, encouraged his delusional state.
Director Todd Phillips makes the transition from gross-out comedy in The Hangover to gritty realism in this comic book thriller. Judging from the trailer he's certainly got an eye for arresting and chilling imagery – the shot of Fleck standing in a lift at Arkham State Hospital next to a restrained, convulsing patient is unnerving, while clearly foreshadowing what's to come.
There's not too much footage of co-stars Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron or Robert De Niro (as a venal stand-up comedy host), but that will no doubt come in time. Find out how the world's darkness becomes a punchline for the Joker in the following trailer.
Excited? Joker is released on 4th October so tweet us your reactions @Cineworld.