In December 2014, the cast of Suicide Squad was announced with Jared Leto starring as The Joker. Fans were highly anticipating Leto’s Joker performance as he’s known as a method actor that refuses to leave character while filming. Same was said about Heath Ledger, and he is said to be the best portrayal of The Joker on screen. One could say the casting of Jared Leto as Joker was the highlight because as time went on his work has became under-appreciated.
This all really starts with the comparison of the other actors who have played Joker. Jack Nicholson from Tim Burton’s Batman and Heath Ledger’s Academy Award winning performance from The Dark Knight. However, comparing any of these people to Jared Leto’s Joker is completely unfair. Each of these Joker’s were different from one another in some kind of way. Their looks and motivations varied and each further removed from the iteration before it. Jack’s Joker wanted control based on fear, while Heath’s Joker wanted anarchy. Jared Leto’s Joker doesn’t have an origin. His modus operandi wasn’t as clear. On the surface, Leto’s Joker lives a rock star life as the Prince of Crime.
In April 2015, Jared Leto’s Joker was finally revealed to the public. The reaction to the shirtless, tattooed and metal toothed Joker was very mixed. Some hated the complete departure of the original look, while others were excited to learn more about the new look. Some parts were explained. Jokers metal teeth were due to Batman knocking out his teeth. Some tattoos were a reaction to this like the Joker smile on his hand, or the “Damaged” tattoo on his forehead.
When Suicide Squad was released in 2016, the overall feeling of Leto’s Joker was disappointing. While there are some who just didn’t like him, other just felt short changed. The Joker was not in the film for very long, all of 7 actual minutes of actual screen time. Not only that, it has been verified that the Joker did have a much bigger role and most of it was edited out of the film. We know this due to the trailers that were released. There were shots of Joker with half his face burned, but that isn’t in any version of the film. Also, the awkward editing of the helicopter scene shows that the film was going to go in a different direction but changed in post production. The lack of screen time wasn’t only disappointing to fans but it also Jared Leto, who said they filmed enough material for a solo Joker film. He publicly displayed his disapproval during interviews. The problem really laid with the concept of wanting to have Joker in the film, but not knowing what to actually do with him.
During that short time on screen, Jared Leto brought the Joker to life. Sure, he did not look like any version of the Joker fans are familiar with but his presence was magnetic all the same. The combination of him moving like a snake, his shark eyes (or as Quint from Jaws would say, “a doll’s eyes”) creepy ear-to-ear smile, that chaotic laugh and total narcissistic personality, therein lies a terrifying Joker.
Referencing that scene when Harley Quinn is interviewing him in Arkham Asylum. During that whole scene, when he’s asking for a machine gun, he never blinks, just stares at Harley. When she questions it, he just gives her a deranged smile. Not because he’s crazy, but because he knows he can use that affection to not only get what he wants, but to get out of Arkham. Then he doesn’t kill her. Why? Because he craves that affection. Frost and his other followers can’t supply that for him. They’re replaceable. Disposable goons. Harley, however, is someone he can control and manipulate. There is something inexplicably perverse and deeply disturbing about that.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stranger” is a line spoken from another Joker in another movie but aptly applies to the deep and twisted mental place Leto’s Joker resides. Beneath the outward Die Antwoord lifted look, he’s a representation of the futility of life. Life’s a joke and he’s the punchline.
So there were high for this fan favorite character, but it was always to be an impossible challenge to live up to the critically-acclaimed performance of Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan’s sensation The Dark Knight. Perhaps DC and Warner Brother’s Studios’ biggest mistake was putting such an emphasis on the character, only to use him so sparingly. And yes, the visual representation of the Joker was too far left of center. But like all the great actors before him, Leto made the Joker his own.
We shall have to wait and see if Leto’s performance can deliver more and convert fans as he has a chance of redemption with his character set to appear in a stand alone Joker film.
So should we be excited about a stand alone Joker film? Of course we should. Jared Leto’s Joker was on the screen for less than 10 minutes. What basis of judgement can anyone have on his character due in such little screen time? During that small time, he was terrifying and destroyed anyone that got in his way. Jared Leto made you crave more.
The under-appreciation that he received during Suicide Squad will change to appreciation. You can guarantee that.