Before the Suicide Squad movie was released, the hype machine was going full-swing, the marketing heavily focusing on Jared Leto’s new take on the Joker. While some people were initially taken aback by his appearance, there was enough there to intrigue everyone. But winning them over would be no easy feat, considering previous actors had turned in brilliant interpretations of the Joker previously. Jack Nicholson gave us a murderous buffoon, a prankster gangster who loved to dance; and Heath Ledger gave us a force of anarchy that had something to prove, an iconic performance that earned him an Academy Award.
Leto was facing an uphill battle from the start. Sadly, much of what we saw from the Joker was left on the cutting room floor, to the chagrin of many. While some might have felt disappointed by what we ultimately ended up with, the DC Extended Universe’s version of the Joker was actually one of the best things about the movie. Not everyone may have noticed, but we finally got the perfect Joker on-screen. Today, CBR lists 15 reasons Jared Leto’s was the perfect, most comic-loyal interpretation of the Joker yet. Not the villain we need. But the one we deserve. A murderous court jester. A man who laughs.
15. HE KILLED A ROBIN
The Joker is a force let loose upon the city. He has it out for Gotham, its citizens and their protector, but rarely do we see him strike a blow at Batman directly. From his previous appearances, the farthest Joker had gone was manage to kill Bruce Wayne’s love, Rachel Dawes, in a bomb explosion in The Dark Knight. But the DCEU’s Joker went much further than that, and we didn’t even have to see him do it.
As seen in Batman v. Superman, the fallen Robin’s armor was clearly marked with Joker’s signature: “Ha ha! Joke’s on you Batman!” This Joker managed to accomplish what none have done before, and that was to brutally kill Batman’s sidekick, friend and partner. Not only that, he even goes so far as taunting Batman about it, from the spray-painted message on the armor to the tattoo of a dead robin bird on his right arm.
14. HE’S GOT SHOWMANSHIP
One complaint many viewers had with Suicide Squad was the fact that there wasn’t nearly enough Joker to go around, with only a few brief scenes to show for it. But, for every one of those different scenes, not once did we see him wearing the same outfit twice. This Joker knows the real value of showmanship and the strength of the reputation that comes with it.
Nicholson’s Joker was a clown who danced to Prince music, so there was an element of show there. The Dark Knight‘s Joker had one classic outfit that became his very own signature. But the DCEU’s Joker has so many different looks, from shirtless, to a gold jacket, to boxer shorts and a classic tuxedo. Whatever the situation calls for, this Joker has an outfit ready. He doesn’t abide by the sole purple aesthetic, and he was all the more Joker for it.
13. HE’S MANIPULATIVE
If Nicholson’s Joker was a criminal to take at face value that attempted to poison the city and Ledger’s Joker a mastermind who played an eternal game of cat-and-mouse with people for the soul of Gotham City, Leto’s Joker was a much different threat. He is, in fact, a much quieter fury than those who have come before, using tricks, deceit and manipulation.
From manipulating Dr. Harleen Quinzel into falling in love with him to even getting her to help free him, from turning her into something just like him to tracking down a Belle Reve prison guard and not even having to threaten his life to get him to work for him, there isn’t anything the Joker won’t do to get what he wants. He just prefers to toy with people. Not only does that make him smart, it also makes him incredibly dangerous.
12. HE’S OUTRIGHT SCARY
While all Jokers that have come before have been scary in their own right, Jared Leto’s Joker took a few steps further than them. From every one of his appearances, there was one clear idea, and that is that this version of the Joker was absolutely terrifying. From his snake-like taunting to a genuinely frightening smile, everyone believed him when he said “I’m not gonna kill you. I’m just gonna hurt you. Really… really… bad.”
Even his laughter was something special. He may not have been the Joker who has laughed the most on-screen, but he’s definitely the one who sent chills down our spine when he did so — like, for example, when he was laying on the floor, surrounded by all sorts of weapons, and chuckled away hauntingly. Leto’s Joker had a brand new voice about him, and that made him all the more terrifying.
11. HE’S UNPREDICTABLE
The caveat (or is it advantage?) of being a terrifying villain is that unpredictability comes with the territory. The DCEU’s Joker, with all of his maliciousness, is a character that is wholly unpredictable. For example, that time he appeared in the room with a Belle Reve guard. His presence intimidating, his mannerisms frightening, we had no idea what would happen to this guard. And yet, he lived to further Joker’s plan.
But, on the other side of the spectrum, the Joker didn’t hesitate an instant to kill a fellow criminal for disrespecting him, or to abandon Harley Quinn in a sinking car to make his escape from Batman. While The Dark Knight‘s Joker was more predictable in his planning, whenever Leto’s Joker is in the room, we have no idea what is going to happen; who might live, and who might die.
10. HE’S SADISTIC
From our very first look at Leto’s Joker in the trailer of Suicide Squad, we knew he was going to be one for the ages when we were teased at how sadistic he could be. All it took was a bit of electroshock therapy, and the promise of pain. But when we found out that Dr. Harleen was the one on the receiving end of that torment, we were shown a whole new Joker. A sadistic, cruel Joker who didn’t care about anyone or anything.
From killing Robin to throwing Doctor Quinzel in a vat of chemicals, there’s little doubt that this is the most sadistic Joker to come on-screen. Sure, The Dark Knight‘s Joker came close, with his games and killing spree, but he had a plan to it. His cruelty had a goal, an endgame. The DCEU’s Joker on the other hand is cruel because that’s who he is.
9. HE’S GOT A GANG WHO’S JUST AS CRAZY AS HE IS
In the ’89 Batman, we had Bob and his fellow acolytes, with their matching vests, hats and sunglasses as part of The Joker’s crew. We’ve also seen the Joker’s clown mask-wearing allies and reluctant mob partners in his war on Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight — more of a means to an end for this very loner Joker — but Suicide Squad gave us our first taste of what a real Joker Gang could look like.
Inspired by their mad, extravagant leader, the Joker’s Gang didn’t get much in the way of personality, but then again they didn’t need to. As little more than muscle, their intimidating and confusing looks did all the job for them. From a panda wielding an assault rifle and a goat-headed priest to a suit-wearing monsters, these people at Joker’s side did half of the work for him, and they showed us the inspiration and influence he had.
8. HE’S A QUESTION MARK
The Joker is who he is because… well, we don’t know. Not really. The comic books have given us possible answers to his origin, but they, like he says, can be a multiple choice answer. The Dark Knight‘s Joker gave us that when he repeatedly changed the story of his scars. But while we didn’t know his backstory, we knew everything we did to know who he was. Tim Burton’s Joker, on the other hand, had an origin, and a clear goal.
In the DCEU, we know Joker is a criminal, that he’s spent time in Arkham and that government big wigs know who he is. We don’t know where he’s been, where he’s going or what he really wants. His rivalry with Batman, hints at a mysterious past and quite a reputation all shroud this version of the villain in a veil of unknowns. Just like in the comics, this Joker simply… is.
7. HE’S RESOURCEFUL
True to his own self, the Joker has an enormous amount of murderous wealth at his disposal. Whether it’s infiltrating a Wayne-owned company’s facility to learn about the Task Force X’s bomb implants, flying a military helicopter in a quarantined city or breaking into Belle Reve itself to free Harley Quinn, it seems like there isn’t much out of this Joker’s reach.
Previous incarnations of the Joker had limits to their plans, but the DCEU’s Joker barely has any limits. We don’t know how he came into possession of all he has, or how he orchestrates all of his plans, but it doesn’t matter, because the results speak for themselves. They show us a Joker who has no boundaries to his villainy, and it makes us all wonder how he managed to kill Robin.
6. HE LOOKS LIKE HE WAS RIPPED FROM THE COMICS
Each appearance of the Joker in live-action has come with his own distinct look, one that was both instantly recognizable as the Joker yet rumbling with its very own unique interpretation of the villain. The DCEU’s version was no different, with a whole new look that was as divisive as it was effective, but it had the added feat of depicting the Joker as if he had been ripped straight from the comic books in some instances.
Forget the modern additions of the tattoos and the teeth for an instant and just look at legendary Batman artists Alex Ross and Greg Capullo’s work, and you’ll see direct inspirations, influences and even outright homages that were applied to this Joker. From the tuxedo and a classic Alex Ross cover brought to life to the Joker’s burned face that was sadly left out the movie, this Joker was a clear representation of the comics.
5. HE’S IN LOVE AND HE HATES IT
Harley Quinn was introduced in Batman: The Animated Series as the Joker’s sidekick and girlfriend, a fellow criminal completely enthralled with the clown. Their relationship was quickly established as an abusive one, with the Joker knocking down Harley whenever he got the chance, but also needing her by his side whenever she wasn’t. Before, in live-action, this was never something we got to see.
But with Suicide Squad, we got to see just that. Sure, most of the abusive material was left on the cutting room floor, but there was still enough there to see how cruel the Joker was to Harley. But then, he also couldn’t live without her — as evidenced in Harley’s origin scene, where Joker convinced her to jump into a vat of chemicals. He would have left her there to die, but something held him back, and, reluctantly, he went back for her.
4. THE PALE MAN
While we’ve been checking all the appropriate boxes for the ultimate version of the Joker, from sadistic and manipulative to unpredictable and scary, there is one major box that was also checked in Suicide Squad, one that even The Dark Knight‘s revered Joker never got right: the Joker’s bleached skin look — not paint and make-up on the face, but actual bleached skin, all over his body, just like in the comic books.
Keeping the mystery intact, unlike Tim Burton’s origin of the Joker, we don’t know exactly how the bleached skin came to be, but we know that it’s there. It’s part of who the Joker is and it’s part of his haunting, almost ghost-like look. Furthermore, it seems like he saw this as a blank slate opportunity, a new canvas to draw on, as evidenced by all the tattoos he has of this new identity.
3. HE’S TOTALLY CRAZY
When Harley Quinn was gone and missing — thanks to him abandoning her in the first place, no less — the Joker came to realize that he missed her and found himself saddened to be alone. So, what did he do? He surrounded himself with guns and knives and drew a smile on his face to try and cheer himself up, to try and convince himself to smile. But then, he did manage to laugh once again. All it took was to make a prison guard kiss his ring. Literally.
Mood-swings are a part of this Joker’s DNA, because there is no rhyme or reason to him. Whatever stands in his way is subject to his manic persona, and that feeds directly into his unpredictability, as mentioned before in this list. The previous Jokers were all crazy for sure, but this one kicked things up a notch. And we didn’t even see him that long.
2. HE IS THE CLOWN PRINCE OF CRIME
Tim Burton’s Joker was an ’80s gangster, and Christoper Nolan’s was a modern terrorist, both takes reflective of their times. The case was the same for Suicide Squad, which gave us a modern gangster look for the Joker. But while some people may have been turned off by his appearance and style, this was the first movie where we got to see Joker live up to his “Clown Prince of Crime” moniker.
As evidenced by both Amanda Waller’s narration and the scene in Joker’s club, this interpretation was a renowned criminal, one who had both an empire at his feet and a reputation that would earn him his own cell in Arkham Asylum. The DCEU’s Joker has a criminal enterprise, a wide net of resources and contacts that can get him pretty much anything, anywhere. For all intents and purposes, this is the one true Joker in these modern times.
1. HE BROKE BATMAN
The Joker is Batman’s ultimate nemesis, his one true villain, his opposite, a force of chaos and evil to Batman’s order and justice. He is the other side of the Gotham coin. But rarely has he ever won. His status as the villain to the ultimate vigilante that is Batman dooms him to fail from the start, no matter which movie, cartoon or comic you saw him in.
But, in the DCEU, the Joker won and we didn’t even see him do it. Somehow, he killed Robin. As a result, Bruce Wayne shut himself off from the world, abandoned his family manor. Combined with the arrival of Superman, that was enough to turn Batman into a brander and killer. Leto’s Joker managed to do what The Dark Knight’s Joker never could: make Batman break his one rule. And that, more than anything, is the mark of the ultimate Joker.
What do you think of the DCEU’s Joker? Let us know in the comments!
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