With the continued focus on Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker still as hot as the ants under the magnifying glass, we’re taking a look back at Jared Leto’s incarnation of the tortured clown.
An advocate of chaos and futile violence, the Joker has gone from being just Batman’s most infamous nemesis, to one of the most notorious villains in cinema. This is almost solely down to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the dolled up psychopath, elevating the character from a painted thug to a complicated antagonist. Ever since then, the villainous role has been upgraded to acting pedigree, an institution of famous ‘others’, akin to James Bond or Dr.Who, where every performance is weighed up against the last.
Both Jared Leto and the newly appointed Joaquin Phoenix fit this mould. Thespians of the screen, who possess an unstable side and partiality to a sprinkle of method acting. Though whilst Phoenix’s Joker has already proved critically successful, winning highest honour at Venice film festival, Jared Leto’s introduction in Suicide Squad was met with quite the opposite reception.
A performance lightly brushed under the carpet of the Industry, Leto’s Joker was a bizarre mismatch of sickly neon colour, a candy-cane Mexican gangster forged from a vat of Tango Ice Blast.
On paper, his appointment was well calculated and was met with similar applause from the consensus of the Internet. A member of the notorious ‘method acting gang’ with the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale, he had the ability to encapsulate the psychotic nature of the villain, with gaunt features and a toothy grin included for good measure. Though for all his shouts and staccato cackles, his performance is instead remembered as a sad whimper, as limp and pathetically bizarre as the used condoms he sent to various co-stars of the film all in the name of ‘method acting’..
Leto’s Joker was at a level at which a child would comprehend. Crazy because he is. Violent because he is. Golden grills because they’re ‘cool’. Edgy and moody for the same vague reasons as a room-dwelling teenager. The scribbled fan-art made conscious was a superficial understanding of the character.
In hindsight his hip-hop inspired aesthetic was a bizarre reflection of our modern times. If, after all, this version of the character is the garish and vibrant concoction of Hollywood suits, who presumably thought teenagers would lap it up like Monster energy drink. One wonders through what gunk coloured glasses these executives were viewing the world.
In this sense, it’s really quite reassuring that the film and his character didn’t work at all, unofficially shelved until further notice by Warner Brothers. This also works to explain the total deviation from the pastel colours and high intensity in Todd Phillips’ new iteration of the character. A downbeat, spindly Joaquin Phoenix, traditional in dress and mannerisms to a classic clown, one whom if he saw Jared Leto’s Joker in the street would likely keep his head down, that’s if Leto didn’t fling a used condom at him first.