The Joker is the iconic Batman villain that has become a household name ever since Heath Ledger’s rendition of the character in the Christopher Nolan adaptation. The Joker has even been played by actors who in themselves are characters that are larger than life, namely, Jack Nicholson. Jared Leto has taken this on as a challenge to make the role different from other renditions and to make it his own. This attempt is surely made with the best of intentions and based on the photo of Leto’s concept of The Joker that was released it certainly has succeeded in being different.
Different is a buzz word now that has transformed into something more positive like being unique. Here, just to clarify, different is bad. It is as if they tried too hard to be different for the sake of it. The Joker is a sacred icon -- without The Joker there is no Batman. This is a concept that was solidified in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns that the villain would not exist without the hero and maybe this version of the villain shouldn’t exist. Frank Miller’s style is coming to life from what can be seen in the trailers for the upcoming Batman v. Superman film just in time for Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad to kill the momentum.
Sure, looks are not everything, but with over a year to wait until the release of the fully developed version of The Clown Prince, there’s nothing but time to analyze the glimpse we have been given. Besides, the gloves came off once they insulted the intelligence of their audience with the addition of the tattoos, which in themselves are not an issue stylistically, but in their message. It is problematic when the message itself leaves no room for interpretation for a character that has thrived on ambiguity in order for him to embody a world of unimaginable evil. The script tattoo on Leto’s forehead details that he is “damaged” but this is something that should be shown through action rather than words. It is as if there is a need to explain what does not and should not be explained. To confine The Joker to one word is to do a disservice to the character and is unjust in that it robs the character of the potential scope of evil on the spectrum for evil that should have no measure.
The tattoos reveal a juvenile aspect in the creation of the character and perhaps in their intended audience. The abundance of tattoos leave nothing to the imagination which is the very aspect of the character that is appealing -- as appealing as a villain can be. The tattoos of the maniacal laughter on his arm and the Joker’s own smile are other examples of how this self-reflexive and self-aware vision maintain an immaturity about the character design. It seems as if Jared Leto is merely a fan of The Joker and not actually intending on playing the character.
With such a complex character there come its challenges. There is promise in that the casting has been interesting and in general there is approval over the choice of Jared Leto for the role. The only concern going forward is to find a menacing look to match the talent of the actor playing the character. This version of The Joker doesn’t do him justice, there has to be some sort of vigilante that could set the scale of justice right? Where can we get one of those?
Ultimately this might not be the final version. The photo itself was released on the 75th anniversary of the inception of The Joker and could potentially just be an homage -- a joke -- rendering this article pointless. Joke’s on us and that is how The Joker would want it to be.