The Joker origin story directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix looks darker than even the Dark Knight might expect. The Joker, a clown and a comedian who believes his life has purpose, gets his ass kicked all over Gotham. In case you haven’t heard, getting your ass kicked every time you turn around is not good for your psyche. And it isn’t good for Arthur, the real name of the man who becomes the villain we all know. His descent is understandable — is this the origin story that makes the Joker ultimately sympathetic, even as he turn toward evil?
You want the origin story in a nutshell? Or at least the motivation for the makeup? “My mother always tells me to smile,” reveals a distraught and disturbed Arthur, “and put on a happy face.”
Phoenix clearly brings the proper bona fides to the role. And he needs them because it’s a legendary cohort that’s assayed the Joker in the past. Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto have embodied the clown-faced foe, and each made the man their own. For comparison, Nicholson in the video below arrives fully formed as the mature Joker. Joker arrives in theaters October 4.