Warning: potential SPOILERS for Joker
The first official trailer for the Joker movie has revealed more about the DC Film than most fans may realize - and we're covering it all in our trailer breakdown! For the fans who thought that any Joker movie would need Batman, the first look at director Todd Phillips' movie blows that assumption out of the water. Joaquin Phoenix's tragic hero has more than one story to tell, from the looks of it. Now, the only question is whether it will be a comedy, a tragedy... or both.
No matter where the movie lands, the trailer shows quite a bit of the overall arc of the movie (while still using much of the footage fans already saw in the various Joker set photos and leaks). Giving an origin story to a character who is famously without an explicit origin, the Joker movie was suspected to be just one possibility. One deep, dark, and dingy look at what kind of real-world circumstances could create a villain as maniacal as Batman's most iconic nemesis. But the first trailer doesn't skimp on Easter Eggs, shout-outs, and references to Joker's DC Comics history.
Of course, the entire story is going to be more complicated and likely much messier, considering the themes of mental illness, psychotic breaks, and citywide madness. But the Joker trailer cares more about getting its big ideas across than explicit plot points. So let's break down some of the most enticing, most faithful, and most fan service-y moments the first Joker trailer has to offer. Needless to say, there will be potential SPOILERS incoming.
15. Joker's Social Worker is a Kane
As tempting as it may be to see a future Joker speaking to what could be a therapist, and make the connection to Harley Quinn (back in her 'Dr. Harleen Quinzel' days), the reference is actually to the creator of Batman. At least, we're assuming it is, since the odds of Arthur's social worker being named "Debra Kane" by total coincidence seems even more unlikely.
For the casual comic fans, that's an almost certain reference to Bob Kane, who along with Bill Finger is credited with creating Batman. And yes, Bob did have a daughter, Deborah. Interestingly enough, Kane's role in creating the Joker for Batman #1 is disputed, with many citing Jerry Robinson as the creator with Finger. Either way, none of it would've happened without Kane, so the nod is deserved (and hopefully one of many).
14. Before Joker, Come The Jokes
Some viewers may see Arthur scribbling his idea of ‘jokes’ on a notepad and assume that he is bound for a career in stand-up comedy, just like his origin story chronicled in Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” graphic novel. But before they get ahead of themselves, we would advise a closer look at the actual jokes for an insight into Arthur’s sense of humor. And his state of mind, too. “Why are poor people so confused? They don’t have any cents.” Add in jokes about insomniacs who can’t sleep, things that need to “loosen up,” and it’s obvious the tension is building in Arthur whether it’s showing on the outside or not.
Then there is his final joke, which appears to be his most heavily favored, written larger than any other: “The worst part of having a mental illness is… people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” That’s a message worth dissecting and considering in the mind of every viewer, but for now, we’ll simply take it as face value, and assume that Arthur is mentally ill, and knows it. And more importantly, he is struggling to make his life work in the face of it.
13. Pinkie & Blue Boy in Joker's Home
This may be the most intriguing detail layered into the background of Joker, and it's hard to guess how many fans will ever notice it, either in the trailer or the finished film. There are two paintings barely visible on the wall of Arthur and his mother's home, but for art history fans, the two pieces are impossible to overlook. They are "The Blue Boy" and "Pinkie," respectively. And while painted at two different times, by two different artists, they found eachother in California's Henry E. Huntington Gallery. They're even hung opposite one another, doubling down on the quiet desperation and longing expected in Arthur's life.
The layered significance can only be guessed at until director Todd Phillips sheds some insight, but fans can spin their own theories. The "sad" connotations of the portrait of a "Blue Boy" are obvious, as is the irony that the wealthy boy was actually the son of a merchant known by artist Thomas Gainsborough. Even stranger? Gainsborough was painting in the style of Anthony van Dyck, specifically his portrait of King Charles II as a boy. And wouldn't you know it, Charles II is a key player in the story of The Man Who Laughs, the Victor Hugo novel which inspired the original Joker when it was adapted to film in 1928. Intentional, or kismet?
12. The Legacy of 'Holmes' Pharmacy
The trailer uses shots of its version of New York City--sorry, we mean Gotham, to help establish the basic tone, not to mention what looks to be the exact setting of the film. Where previous versions of Gotham have blended the modern era with the 1940s elite, the Joker trailer seems closer to the late 1960s, or early 1970s. But before viewers get too focused on the cars in the background, the fashion being worn by Gotham citizens, or even Arthur… pay close attention to the pharmacy Arthur may be heading for a prescription. The “Holmes Pharmacy” may be pointed to instantly as a nod to Sherlock Holmes, an omni-present figure in the lore of Batman, the world’s (other) greatest detective.
And while this may be a hint of the Dark Knight coming in Arthur’s story, it’s also a name tied to one of the most terrible, tragic, and twisted moments in Batman history. At the time, Batman fans and historians noted the irony that “Holmes” would also be the surname of the man who perpetrated the terrible 'Dark Knight movie theater shooting' in Aurora, Colorado. We’re not suggesting that Phillips or the film crew made this allusion intentionally--more than likely, it is a tragic coincidence--but it emphasizes the narrow line between the legend of Batman, and the most recent case of what press couldn’t help but refer to as a ‘real-world Joker.’
11. The Pagliacci Mask Easter Egg
By now most fans will have noticed that the clown makeup worn by Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur both before and after his transformation into the ‘Joker’ identity seems familiar. The white, blue, and red color scheme was instantly called out by Batman die-hards for its resemblance to the same mask worn by Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight’s opening heist scene. The colors are swapped to keep it from being a total knockoff, but the references and Easter Eggs go much, much deeper.
The makeup and mask are both nods to the debut appearance of Cesar Romero’s Joker in the 1960s Batman TV series, when he made an iconic entry wearing a dead ringer for that very mask. But it wasn’t a random mask: Joker was impersonating the character of Pagliaccio from the Italian opera Pagliacci (translated as “Clowns”). The story makes heavy use of the blurred line between comedy and tragedy depending on perspective, which seems to be a major theme of Joker.
10. The Joker's Mother's Health is Failing
The trailer has more heartwarming moments than fans might expect going in, but the most important may be the exchanges between Arthur and his mother. Dancing in one scene, the glimpse of Arthur bathing his mother in the tub show the tragedy of their relationship. As the first character details for Penny, Joker's Mother revealed, she is in failing health, effectively an invalid in her own home with only Arthur to care for her. But even in the face of that adversity, Arthur seems to take genuine pleasure in his time with his mother.
The rumored plot details may shed some light on why that is so important to Joker as an origin story. Beware potential SPOILERS, but with rumors that Penny just can't stop talking about "her former employer," along with others that suggest Arthur's father may be a member of the Wayne family, the fact that his mother is his last tether to sanity could be what shifts the movie from Arthur's story... to Joker's.
9. The 'Joker' Television Shout Outs
The image of Arthur and his mother dancing in their living room carries an ominous tone, knowing just how dark and twisted his future is going to become. The dim glow from the TV doesn’t help things either, but the credits scrolling on screen do pack a bit of a behind the scenes punch for Easter Egg hunters. They just aren’t references to the history of Batman or DC Comics.
Taking a look at a few of the names--Ben Gatollari, Michael Auszura--and the real world figures getting immortalized on the TV are Joker’s assistant production coordinator and assistant art director, respectively. It’s always nice to see the crew get some love in the film itself, so hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg.
8. The First Look at Zazie Beetz's 'Sophie'
While it's too early to know just how 'evil' or 'broken' Arthur may become along his path towards Jokerhood, we do know one of the everyday citizens of Gotham who will help shape his journey. That honor goes to Sophie Dumond (played by Deadpool 2 actress Zazie Beetz), whose role is starting to make more and more sense.
Originally described as a single mother trying to make ends meet in Gotham, Sophie seems the most likely embodiment of Gotham's injustice. That is, the working people of the city who are struggling, and even suffering, while the city's wealthiest have turned their backs. Arthur seems genuinely charmed by Sophie's laughter, so if his social life is as strained as it would seem, Sophie's opinion of Gotham's power structure could be incredibly influential in giving Arthur his mission against the aristocracy.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021