The latest incarnation of DC Comics’ Clown Prince of Crime, played by Joaquin Pheonix in director Todd Phillips‘ Joker, is brought further to life in the new movie’s final trailer, released Wednesday. Along with Phoenix in the titular role, and as the Joker’s alter-ego Arthur Fleck, the film stars Montauker Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz (Domino in Marvel Comics’ Deadpool 2) and Marc Maron (of Netflix’s Glow).
As the trailer shows, this version of the Joker comes via a smaller film than the character’s past big-screen appearances in 2016’s Suicide Squad (played by Jared Leto), 2009’s The Dark Knight—where Heath Ledger put his indelible, brilliant stamp on the character—and Tim Burton‘s groundbreaking 1989 blockbuster, Batman, featuring Jack Nicholson behind the smile. And rather than attempting to recapture the magic of his formidable predecessors, Phoenix puts a brand new spin on Mistah J, including a unique look—complete with red nose and harlequin eye makeup—that eschews longtime comic book norms, though the hair is still green, the suit’s still purple and that terrifying laugh remains unmistakable and chilling.
In Joker, Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck is a troubled man disregarded by society and failing to make it in comedy before finally reaching his breaking point. In one beautifully creepy scene in the trailer, he’s seen being cut loose by his therapist, noting during their conversation, “You don’t listen, do you? You just ask the same questions every week: How’s your job? Are you having any negative thoughts?” He answers his own question: “All I have are negative thoughts.”
The film centers on the character’s origin in “an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen,” Warner Brothers explains, calling Joker “not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”
De Niro plays a slick talk show host, Murray Franklin, who first ridicules the hopeful comic on his program, but then actually has him on—this time in his clown makeup and asking to be introduced as “Joker.” Bad things surely follow. And we can’t wait to see what those bad things might be.
Joker opens in theaters October 4.