By now, I'm sure everyone has seen the reveal of Jared Leto as the Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad film, and so far the audience seems to be pretty split on it. No one is luke warm, as far as I can tell. There seems to be a strong audience in favor of it, and a strong audience against it. And here I am, absolutely loving the way it looks, yet absolutely hating that it's the Joker. If you have been in a cave, on Mars, in suspended animation, for the last 24 hours and haven't yet seen the photo, here is the full picture that was released via David Ayer's Instagram yesterday:
Now, let me first start by saying that he looks badass. He looks psychotic and insane and murdering, everything you would expect from a mass murdering sociopath. But is it really the Joker? Now, I am really trying not to be too hard on this picture, because I really wasn't thrilled with the first picture that was released of Heather Ledger either.
I thought Heath looked really just... weird, and he turned out to be amazing. I thought he was different than the traditional depiction of the Clown Prince of Crime, but he was also very true to the character the way he was actually portrayed on screen, so I am really going to try and give Jared Leto a chance to make this look work within the context of the character, and I really do think he is capable of being a great Joker. The biggest problems I have with the new Joker are, first and foremost, the teeth. The Joker looking like a cross between Jaws from The Spy Who Loved me and Ali G is just really weird. I'm also not a big fan of the tattoos. I like what the tattoos are, I think they represent the Joker extremely well, but I am not a big fan that the tattoos exist. The Joker in this new picture looks very much like a Heroin addict, and that just shouldn't be the Joker. The Joker isn't a street thug, he's a criminal genius. Where is the quirkiness? Where is the class? I think there is a fine line one needs to walk to do an edgy, horrifying Joker, but still keeping him true to the spirit of the character. Every actor to play the character so far in live action has done their own thing, but yet been extremely true to the spirit of the character. I have my misgivings as to whether or not Leto will be able to do that looking like one of the Devil's Rejects.
Cesar Romero was the first live action Joker we got, and while he wasn't particularly scary or murdering, he had all of the quirkiness we had come to expect from the character. A lot of people have since made a big deal about his painted over mustache, but to be honest, it isn't really all that noticeable unless you're looking for it. Seriously, even in the HD release of the series, I don't notice the stupid mustache when I am casually watching the show. This was a Joker that fit in with the camp of the show he was in, while still not seeming like a watered down version of the character, as someone like Scarecrow probably would have been (which I am going to assume is why they never used the Scarecrow in the '66 television series).
Prior to 2008, Jack Nicholson's portrayal had been cemented in the minds of Batman fans as the definitive movie version of the character. In fact, a lot of the Heath Ledger hate wasn't really aimed at Heath Ledger at all, but at the idea of a Batman movie doing the Joker when we already had a perfect Joker in Nicholson. You can't do it better, so don't even try. And I will admit, that was my initial attitude as well. Nicholson was much more sadistic and evil than Romero had ever been, but he wasn't just insane, he was comically insane, as the Joker should be. Mark Hamill's Batman: The Animated Series version of the Joker was very inspired by Nicholson's, as most things in that cartoon were inspired by the Tim Burton films, and even Hamill was able to take it a few steps further. As live action Jokers went, Nicholson remained the standard.
Heath Ledger went in a completely different direction than we had ever seen from the Joker before. He wasn't chemically disfigured, as Nicholson had been, he had a creepy Glasgow Smile covered in bright red lipstick, sloppily applied, and he had disheveled green hair, slightly longer than anything we'd ever seen before. To look at Ledger's Joker, he seemed like a drastic departure from the tradition of the character, and while he was, in fact, wildly different and new, he still came off as the Joker. He was recognizable as that character, and I think for a lot of people he is now the new standard for the character.
Now, every iteration of the Joker seems to have gone a step or three above what the previous version had been, becoming scarier and more menacing with every new iteration. I can step back from my position and see where Leto's new look is certainly a next logical step in that tradition, of amping up the Joker with every new version, but there is something about that picture released yesterday that just isn't clicking for me. He's definitely unsettling to look at, and I do appreciate that. And all we have is one photo, so we might all be jumping the gun here with all of our nerd rage. He might look better if they put him in some version of his famous purple tuxedo, we will have to see. I will say this, while I am not a fan of the tattoos in general, and the face tattoos in specific, I do like that the "tear drop" tattoo that he has under his eye, which is a very common tattoo for prisoners to have as it denotes you as being someone who is in for murder, is shaped like a J. If you haven't noticed, go back up to the top of the page and look at it. It's a J-shaped tear drop, and I really like that. I thought it was very clever. Hopefully the entire portrayal of the character ends up being just as clever.