The Joker teaser trailer sets the dark tone for director Todd Phillips' hotly anticipated film, as Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck stumbles down the path from failed stand-up comedian to maniacal costumed villain. Any viewers who are somehow unfamiliar with Batman's iconic archenemy, they could be forgiven if they didn't realize this is a comic book movie. But of course the DC logo that appears at the end of the footage cements the feature as such.
But while the Dark Knight will have no role to play in Joker, the trailer includes several nods to the costumed vigilante.
In the opening moments, Arthur meets with a social worker, whose badge identifies her as Debra Kane. While that could be a coincidence, it's far more likely her surname is a nod to Batman co-creator Bob Kane. The late comic book writer and artist also has a daughter named Deborah, albeit spelled differently.
Batman's Stomping Grounds
Of course, perhaps the biggest reference to Batman is the mention of Gotham, the city the Caped Crusader is sworn to protect. The trailer confirms reports that Phillips' film does take place in that familiar setting, albeit in 1981, with Gotham resembling a grimy, crime-riddled New York City of that era.
Arkham State Hospital
Arthur pays a visit in the trailer to Arkham State Hospital, better known in the comics as the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, or simply Arkham Asylum. The institution is, of course, central to many of Batman's adventures, across comic books, television, video games and film, as its patients frequently include such villains as Two-Face, The Riddler, Poison Ivy and, yes, The Joker.
The film's take on Arkham is far removed from the looming Gothic structure we're used to seeing, and is instead more grounded in traditional, real-world architecture.
Fleck is thrown out of a Charlie Chaplin exhibit held at Wayne Hall, undoubtedly an institution funded by Bruce Wayne's wealthy, philanthropic parents. In comics and in other media, the Wayne Family has exerted influence over Gotham for centuries, from architecture to the arts to the economy.
The exhibit's subject, Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, is also a sly nod, although not to the Dark Knight. The film's instrumental theme provided the basis for the song "Smile," which serves as the trailer's soundtrack.
Young Master Bruce
Arthur forces a smile onto the face of a boy, who appears to played Dante Pereira-Olson, listed on the film's IMDb entry (not always the most reliable of sources, mind you) as Young Bruce Wayne. That may very well mean the gate standing between the two is the entrance to Wayne Manor.
It's possible, then, that the Joker trailer depicts the first meeting between the future Clown Prince of Crime and his eventual nemesis.
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais and Shea Whigham. The film arrives in theaters Oct. 4.