Suicide Squad was not a good movie. A textbook case of studio meddling as writer/director David Ayer and Warner Bros. had different visions for the film, the 2016 DC Comics team-up film was a mess. It had some good ideas, but many bad ones. And ask people what the worst of the lot was and most would point to Jared Leto’s Joker.
With his purple leather jacket, metal “grill” and hilariously bad tattoos (the “Damaged” one on his forehead deserves a special mention), the whole design just smacked of somebody trying way too hard to be edgy and cool. The Oscar-winning actors’ Clown Prince of Crime was routinely mocked and hasn’t had another appearance in the DCEU since. In Birds of Prey, which deals directly with the fallout between him and Harley Quinn, they even went as far as to replace him with a traditional-looking animated version in a flashback sequence.
But Leto-Joker’s ex-communication from the DCEU is now coming to an end. For the upcoming, long-awaited four-hour-long director’s cut re-release of Justice League (another not-good movie that fell victim to studio meddling), director Zack Snyder filmed additional scenes with Leto who didn’t feature at all in the film original 2017 theatrical release. And this Joker is VERY different.
Chatting to Vanity Fair, Snyder released a duo of pics, revealing a Joker with no cringey tattoos or grill, and boasting long, stringy hair and grimy makeup, while dressed in a dirty hospital gown and surgical mask. The look hews far closer to that of Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning depiction in The Dark Knight, but with Snyder’s own nihilistic stamp on it. But why is this Joker so different?
When I initially saw the pics, I immediately thought this would be some kind of flashback to Joker’s early days to show how he killed the owner of the defaced Robin costume seen in the Batcave during Batman v Superman. But I was headed in completely the wrong direction as this is actually the Joker from the future. Well, a future at least. According to Snyder, this new Joker shows up in the Knightmare sequence previously only glimpsed in BvS. Call it a dream sequence or psychic vision, but it’s experienced by Ben Affleck’s Batman and gives him a look at the future devastation wrought on Earth after he and the other superheroes fail to stop Darkseid. In this sequence, Joker engages directly with Batman, “supplying motivation through terror”.
The cool thing about the scene is that it’s Joker talking directly to Batman about Batman. It’s Joker analyzing Batman about who he is and what he is. That’s the thing I also felt like fans deserved from the DC Universe. That is to say, the Jared Leto Joker and the Ben Affleck Batman, they never really got together. It seemed uncool to me that we would make it all the way through this incarnation of Batman and Joker without seeing them come together.
It seems I was also right in my initial guess though, as besides for explaining “why Bruce had the Joker card taped to his gun that you see in Batman v Superman”, the scene will also touch on what happened with Robin.
I’d always wanted to explore the death of Robin. And if there ever was going to be a next movie, which, of course, there probably won’t be, I wanted to do a thing where in flashbacks we learn how Robin died, how Joker killed him and burned down Wayne Manor, and that whole thing that happened between he and Bruce… how they became like this… how he hurt him in a way that no one has, really. Other than losing his parents, it was probably the most significant personal injury to his life.
As for exactly why Joker is dressed like a homicidal surgeon and missing all his try-hard tattoos and affectations? Well, Snyder actually doesn’t have a real answer. The filmmaker suggested that Joker’s mental asylum-inspired outfit “is probably a remnant of his escape into the wild when the world fell”. At one point he changes that up for a bulletproof vest covered in grimy cop badges (“He has tons of badges. Those are his trophies.”), but in fitting with Joker’s mysterious aura there are no concrete answers given as to exactly how he ended up in this new form.
I would say that there’s been some water under the bridge. Who knows what’s happened. I don’t know if he’s wearing makeup, I don’t know what’s happening. It’s hard to say exactly.
I’ve always been a huge fan of keeping the Joker as this impenetrable, unknowable force of chaos, so I have to say that I like where this is going. Of course, as we know, Snyder only shot a few minutes worth of extra footage for his Justice League cut (the rest coming from unfinished material he had already filmed before he had to leave the production), so Leto’s Joker won’t have a ton of screen time. We’ll have to see if that’s a good or bad thing when Zack Snyder’s Justice League debuts on HBO Max on 18 March 2021.
Oh and in case you were wondering, I heard back from our contact at Showmax and Justice League had not been on their upcoming release list. However, upon my prompting, they said they would take it up with their film acquisition team and see what can be done. Here’s holding thumbs!
Last Updated: February 10, 2021