The first full-length trailer for Joker, the new Batman spin-off movie starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, has arrived. The film, which is premiering at the Venice Film Festival this week but opens nationwide on October 4, stars Phoenix as the notoriously creepy villain famously portrayed by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. In this new interpretation, that creep factor is higher than ever before.
Directed by Todd Phillips, the new movie is set in the ’80s and follows Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a failed stand-up comedian who becomes unhinged and transitions to the dark side: the crime scene in Gotham City. (It also stars Robert De Niro as a talk show host whose program Fleck performed on, and who contributed to Fleck’s downfall.) Along the way, Fleck assumes the persona of a clown, becoming obsessed with clown makeup and masks. Though, from the ominous tone of the trailer, it’s safe to say that nobody’s going to be laughing at him anymore.
Phoenix did a significant amount of research to get into the classic Batman character. Earlier this month, the actor said he studied the phenomenon of pathological laughter and crying for the role—the Joker is known for his maniacal laugh, after all. “I saw videos showing people suffering from pathological laughter, a mental illness that makes mimicry uncontrollable,” he said. The result is an equally electric and repellent performance evoking the very darkest side of a disappointed man; Oscar buzz is already rising.
Below, watch the new trailer.