Joaquin Phoenix, seen filming Todd Phillips’ upcoming Joker on the New York subway this weekend, appears to have declared war on the wealthy. The production, which has been seen filming in public repeatedly, continues to drop clues about the activities and associates of the would-be Crown Prince of Crime in the new origin story. The most recent photos tease a major reveal about the movie’s premise.
The 1980s-set film focuses on a struggling stand-up comedian named Arthur Fleck (Phoenix). Marc Maron and Robert De Niro are slated to play a talent agent and TV host, respectively, both of whom will presumably play a roll in Arthur’s rise to notoriety. Brett Cullen plays Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s father), and, as in DC Comics Batman: Earth One, the Wayne family patriarch will run for mayor – albeit under different circumstances. And it seems that the would-be mayor of Gotham will become one of Arthur’s targets in the upcoming standalone film. That much can be inferred from a recent batch of set photos.
Just Jared posted a series of photos online from the Joker set showing one of the Clown Prince’s henchman or followers holding up a sign reading “Kill The Rich” and “Stop Corporate Greed.” Furthermore, the batch of photos also contains new looks at Phoenix as both Arthur Fleck and the Joker.
While the Joker has garnered followings of the poor uprising against the rich in the comic books, giving the character this kind of protagonistic potential is something new to moviegoers. Jack Nicholson and Mark Hamill’s Jokers were predominantly driven by pathological narcissism and twisted desires for acclaim and power. Heath Ledger and Jared Leto’s interpretations were chiefly fueled by impulses to create chaos and destruction. Phoenix’ origin story suggests that prior to succumbing to insanity, a man who strove to combat social and economic inequality perpetuated by a capitalistic system. Maron, De Niro, and Cullen’s characters seem perfectly placed to represent trickle-down economics, while Beetz’s character – a poor, single mother – creates an avenue to social activism spaces that Arthur could become a part of.
Even as it became popular in the 1980s, the stand-up comedy motif has an opportunity to create a very different movie-going experience when combined with the Joker legacy. Influential comedians like Trevor Noah and Hannah Gadsby have helped rewire stand-up as a way of addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, and the disproportion of wealth and power held by the 1%. Like Spike Lee’s Black Klansman, it’s possible that Joker will take place in the past in order to reframe the present.
KEY RELEASE DATES
Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
Wonder Woman 2 (2019) release date: Nov 01, 2019
Birds of Prey (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020