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‘Joker’ First Trailer Stuns CinemaCon, Critics Compare Footage to ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Requiem for a Dream’

The buzz for Warner Bros.' fall tentpole soared at the Las Vegas exhibition event.

Joaquin Phoenix, "Joker"

Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”

Todd Phillips/Instagram

The first footage of Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” premiered during the Warner Bros. panel at CinemaCon and quickly set the film world ablaze on social media. The October tentpole stars Phoenix as the iconic Batman villain, who has previously been played on the big screen by Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto, and Heath Ledger. The latter won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his Joker performance in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” Now comes Phoenix’s turn as the character, who in “Joker” is portrayed as a failed stand up comedian who gets seduced into Gotham’s criminal underworld in the early 1980s.

Appearing at CinemaCon, director Todd Phillips described the film as an “origin story about a beloved character with no definitive origin” and said the genre of the film is “tragedy.” Phillips was adamant that he is still shaping the film and said a lot of the reporting on the project has not been 100% true.

The first teaser trailer was screened, which begins with Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck appearing skinny and scary while caring for his sick mother (Frances Conroy). Fleck says his purpose in the world is to bring laughter and joy. Arthur visits Arkham Hospital and then is shown in clown makeup laughing on the Gotham subway. The trailer draws a strong connection to Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” with Robert De Niro popping up briefly as a talk show host appearing onstage during his program. The footage ends with Phoenix in full Joker makeup.

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The footage was instantly praised on social media, with Business Insider reporter Jason Guerrasio saying the film looks “fucking insane.” The footage drew additional comparisons to “Taxi Driver” and “Requiem for a Dream.”

“Joker” is co-written and directed by Todd Phillips, best known as the filmmaker behind “The Hangover” movies. The supporting cast includes Robert De Niro as a popular talk show host, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, and Marc Maron. Warner Bros. is releasing “Joker” nationwide October 4. Check out the first reactions to the footage below.

Additional reporting by Kate Erbland

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