Video: "Joker" trailer

To cleanse the palate. “I have mixed feelings about Taxi Driver With Face Paint,” sniffs Dan Foster about the trailer for Hollywood’s latest comic-book excrescence. The vibe I get is more “The King of Comedy But Darker” but his point is taken.

Robert De Niro co-stars here, in fact, surely not coincidentally.

Early consensus on social media is that (1) another Joker movie is utterly superfluous (“New ‘Joker’ Trailer Introduces Iconic Villain To Same Generation Of Fans,” reads the Onion’s headline) and (2) this looks pretty sweet. The key is the casting: There’s no one in movies more obviously suited to play this part than Joaquin Phoenix. Watching the clip, I realized this is pretty much how I imagine he is all the time. (Minus the face paint. Sometimes.) Modern renditions of the character began with an actor in Jack Nicholson who’s always seemed just this side of madness to intense method actors like Heath Ledger and Jared Leto attempting to fully inhabit the Joker’s insanity to a guy in Phoenix for whom the role seems … not that much of a stretch, really. The next actor cast in a Joker movie really will have to come from an asylum.

Given the industry’s bottomless and inexplicable fascination with all things Batman, expect the search for that actor and the start of a new franchise to begin before this flick leaves theaters.

I’ll defer to those more knowledgeable about Batman mythology than me (which is virtually everyone) but a Joker backstory is something of a contradiction in terms, right? There’s no “cause” for his evil, especially nothing so pedestrian as him being a social misfit who’s bullied by people around him. His psychosis is supposed to be unfathomable, I thought. From this glimpse, it looks like they’re positioning him in a dark symmetry with Bruce Wayne: Wayne took to fighting crime because of the trauma he suffered from his parents’ deaths, the Joker took to committing crime because of the trauma he suffered from the abuse inflicted on him. That seems pat — but perhaps there’ll be more to this narrative than meets the eye.

Anyway, the reason this feels so redundant is that not only has the character been reprised repeatedly over the past 30 years, it’s been done so iconically — more than once. Ledger won an Oscar for “The Dark Knight” and virtually every role Nicholson ever played is iconic to some greater or lesser degree. There’s no public clamor for someone to finally do justice to the Joker. Justice has been done, more than once. Yet here we are.