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Forget Superhero Movies, Joker Already Looks Like Oscar Material

Joker movie

Hot off the heels of its debut at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Warner Bros. released the teaser trailer for director Todd Phillips' Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Ace of Knaves.

Set to the backdrop of a grim Gotham City in the early '80s, the footage follows Phoenix's Arthur Fleck as he descends into madness. It's almost nightmarish to watch as the failed stand-up comedian experiences violence and hardships that spiral him into insanity and a life of crime.

As far as first trailers go, this one had an uphill battle from the beginning. Despite the Joker being one of Batman's most recognizable and beloved rogues, there wasn't much excitement about this movie when it was announced.

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For starters, the shadow of Heath Ledger's legendary performance in The Dark Knight still lingers and will forever be the standard-bearer for the character. How exactly do you top a mesmerizing and award-winning performance like that? Jared Leto -- another Oscar winner -- tried in Suicide Squad, but the results were divisive, to say the least.

Moreover, the mysteriousness and uncertainty about the Clown Prince of Crime's history is what makes him such a unique, menacing and unpredictable character, whereas this film would demystify his origin for the general audience. It's a risky move, with many staunch fans already rejecting it out of principle.

RELATED: Joker: Every Batman Reference in the First Movie Trailer

And here's the capper: Joker doesn't tie into the larger DC Extended Universe, acting as its own standalone film outside of continuity. In the era of cinematic universes, fans will debate where it fits in the timeline -- especially if Leto's tattooed Joker is still running wild.

Yet, like the prankster it portrays, the trailer performed a magic trick, serving up one of the hottest film teasers in years and setting the internet into a giddy frenzy. In less than two minutes and thirty seconds, Joker convinced an audience that it's not only a must-see comic book movie, but also a potential awards candidate in the future.

Any doubts about Phoenix's ability to transform himself into the iconic supervillain (complete with the trademark laugh) were instantly squashed with this footage. Movie fans are more than aware of Phoenix's extraordinary talent, which has seen him pick up accolades for his outstanding performances in Gladiator, Walk the Line and You Were Never Really Here. However, the coveted Oscar Award has eluded him even though he's received three nominations. If the trailer is an accurate assessment of what's to come, though, it's entirely possible that he could be in line for a fourth nod, or perhaps even a win this time.

It isn't only Phoenix who could be in line for awards contention, as it appears Phillips turned the comic book movie world on its head with this movie. When Joker was first announced, many presumed it would lean towards the comedic side of things due to Phillips' involvement in the genre, including The Hangover and Due Date.

One look at Joker, though, and it's evident that it's a character study and a psychological thriller, sharing more in common with Taxi Driver than Captain Marvel. Phillips himself described the film as a "tragedy," alluding to the fact that there won't be a happy ending when all is said and done. While comic book movies have generally moved away from the gritty tones of times gone by, Joker might add credibility to the idea that there's still a place for something different and more serious.

RELATED: Joker Set Video Seems to Reveal Joaquin Phoenix's Terrifying Laugh

That said, it's early days and no one knows what the final product will be like. It could be the superhero film that claims a Best Film gong or turn out to be a monumental flop. The main thing to consider is that Joker certainly put its best foot forward and looks spectacular so far. Hopefully, the film will live up to its rather-late-than-never hype.

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