[WARNING: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Suicide Squad.]
Given all the ways that Suicide Squad will help to establish the shared universe launched with Batman V Superman, it's hard to think of one as surprising or promising as Jared Leto's casting as The Joker. And as Zack Snyder looks to make Ben Affleck's Batman a mainstay in his movie universe, it shouldn't be long before he and Jared Leto go to war on the big screen. But first - the Squad.
Leto has kept fans in the loop as he slowly transforms into the Clown Prince of Crime, teasing his changing hairstyles and most recently, electric green hair and signature lipstick. It appears Leto just can't keep his vision of Joker to himself, as another photo from the set of Suicide Squad has revealed another image of the villain - seeming to confirm that directors David Ayer and Zack Snyder may both be taking Frank Miller's lead.
It's important not to place too much emphasis on Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" comic (as it pertains to more than Joker's appearance), since it is an explicit influence on the formation of a brand new Batman, and not necessarily his arch-nemesis. With the film presumably seeing Leto spend most of his time confined to a cell, it seemed a long shot that any clearer looks at the iconic villain would be given without studio consent.
Whatever the studio or actor's intentions, one such set photo has already emerged - not of Leto in costume, but rather a photo of a photo of him in costume, being shown to another person on set. Not exactly what fans are used to, but insightful nonetheless:
[Images have been removed]
Unfortunately, the original photographer has yet to be confirmed, meaning fans should take it with a grain of salt (as usual). Authentic or not, the image falls in line with what we've been expecting to see from this take on the Joker. The rumored scars, bleached skin and history with Batman all fall in line with the "Dark Knight Returns" version, and the white suit worn by Leto in the photo cements the link to Frank Miller's original artwork.
At this point, it's hard to know just how the image relates to the film at hand. The rumor mill surrounding Leto's Joker has given the impression that he will offer more than a cameo or minor role, but how the Joker swaps his prison uniform for his signature threads and makeup is completely unknown. There's an outside chance the image is simply the result of Leto's own experimentation with the character's look, and may not be the version fans wind up seeing at all.
But it isn't just Leto's makeup and fashion sense that offered new insight into his role, but the actor's physique as well. When Leto first admitted that he was gaining "a lot of weight" as filming approached, we took it to mean he wasn't intending to get heavier, but perhaps adding on some muscle mass. Considering how physically imposing Ben Affleck's Batman looks to be, few would blame him for at least trying to keep up.
While appearing on his streaming network, VyRT, the typically lean Leto revealed the changes made to his frame for the part of a crazed, incarcerated comic villain:
Leto's weight gain may not be as startling as Henry Cavill or Ben Affleck's, but as we've said before, not every DC Comics icon will resemble a bodybuilder. For instance: the Joker seeming to be anything but the 'gym-going' type means that a leaner, more wiry physique has almost always been adopted by comic book artists.
It may be that Ayer and Leto have found a happy medium between big screen hero and comic villain: having Leto bulk up first, before leaning him out. The end result would be a criminal mastermind who conveys years of hard living, scars and injuries and, of course, incarceration; but also the aggression and strength that landed him there in the first place. That may seem like too much attention paid to the physique of a character who isn't typically shown as a physical threat - but that's the point.
So far, moviegoers have yet to see a version of the Joker who poses an actual physical threat to not just larger Gothamites, but fellow villains like Killer Croc and Boomerang. Joker may usually use his wit or insanity to escape physical harm, but it appears that wouldn't quite cut it for director David Ayer. The only question now is how much Leto will get to use those muscles in the actual film.
Or, how much he has already...
Those eagerly anticipating Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman may soon be introduced to aversion of the Joker that can not only take the best beating Batman can dish out, but is capable of handing one out himself (even if he does call on some additional muscle).
Are you excited to see Leto's final transformation on the screen? Do you think there's promise in a physically imposing Joker, or does it seem like an afterthought? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman - June 23rd, 2017; Justice League - November 17th, 2017; The Flash - March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman - July 27th, 2018; Shazam - April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 - June 14th, 2019; Cyborg - April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern - June 19th, 2020.