The first look at Oscar winning actor Jared Leto’s interpretation of The Joker has evoked mixed reactions from the passionate comic book fanbase. There are certainly aspects to like from the most recent incarnation of the character but at the same time, some things seem bizarre and even downright wrong. Let’s delve deeper.
There are numerous nods to the history of the Joker, from the famous pose taken straight from the pages of the Killing Joke to the bright green hair and purple glove. The hair is a huge move away from Heath Ledger’s Joker, and is refreshing in the movie universe. The glove, given the seriousness of the world DC and Warner Bros are creating, is perhaps too cheesy and not particularly realistic, but at least here it seems to work quite nicely. Perhaps it will not be a permanent feature of the character. Contrasting with the bright colours of the glove and hair is the seemingly bleached white skin of the Clown Prince. Again director David Ayer and the team are certainly crafting their own vision of the character, moving away from Ledger’s make-up approach. It is unclear what has made the Joker’s skin that colour at the moment though.
Certainly the most surprising aspect of this character reveal was the tattoos. The Joker is not known for body art, and the sort of ink on display has rubbed many fans the wrong way. There is no subtletly to the work, instead, every single fragment of the Joker’s character over the last 75 years appears to have been applied to his body. It’s a bizarre choice certainly. Along with a large chunk of laughter, there are playing cards on the shoulder, large smiles on the arm and hand, and a clown skull on the chest. It appears simply too on the nose. At the same time though, perhaps the thinking is that such a twisted character would indeed plaster himself with such strange artwork. This theory holds water when the ink on the right bicep of the new Clown is focused on. In a previous article I mentioned the potential death of Robin in this universe, and the tattoo, which appears to be a bird, could indicate such an event. What better way to anger Batman than to display such a tattoo?
The rest of the tattoos fall under the ‘intriguing’ rather than ‘terrible’ category. The ‘J’ under the eye, almost like a tear tattoo, is a nice addition, while the ‘Damaged’ tattoo on the forehead does not sound quite as ridiculously bad as it sounds. There is an interesting tattoo around the waist which is only partially on show. It appears to be two words ending in “YS” and “Y”. “Harley’s Only” appears to be the most popular interpretation making the rounds, and it definitely fits considering both the Joker’s and Harley Quinn’s presence in the Suicide Squad movie. As well as this, the strained look around the eyes adds to the savage crazed look effectively, and the caps on the teeth are rather brilliant. Batman is sure to knock your teeth out at least a few times. It only adds to the menace.
Overall then, it’s a mixed bag. Some parts look strange in a good way, others not so much. It is only one photo though, so we must not judge a book by its cover. Definitely Leto (ala Ledger) has made quite the impressive transformation for the role. What is also certain is that while making many nods to the Joker’s past, particularly through the tattoos, Ayer and the crew are not playing it safe, and are giving us an ambitious interpretation of everyone’s favourite clown.