Is Jared Leto A Good Joker?

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After today’s release of ‘Suicide Squad,’ the internet will likely be replete with comparisons between the DC Cinematic Universe’s newest incarnation of the evil clown with the many iterations that came before.

A posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger’s portrayal in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ makes the role especially risky for the newest actor, Jared Leto. Fortunately, comic book properties have proved malleable, both on the printed page and, as an extension, into the cinematic realm. By design, successful comic book characters change with the times, in both costume and ethos. From the psychopathic serial killer in the comics of the 1950s to the innocent whimsy of Cesar Romero in the 1966 ‘Batman’ television series, to the anarchic and chaos-driven Joker portrayed by Heath Ledger in the ‘Dark Knight Trilogy,’ Leto’s interpretation of the character isn’t outside of comic book canon, infinitely more aligned with the graphic novels of the late 1980s (and the Batman Animated Series of the 1990s).

The anarchic Joker of the Nolanverse doesn’t have the time or patience to sit for ten hours to have himself tattooed and decorated in the way this new Joker has; he invents convoluted plans to rob banks and execute his enemies (and his accomplices), but is ultimately ruled by chaos. The whimsical Joker of the 1966 Batman series was too in love with gold and jewels and heists to visit any real harm upon another human soul. The Joker of ‘Suicide Squad’ is a crime boss, a violent gangster, an archetypal malcontent. His tattoos and chromed teeth are intentional objects of intimidation; he’s controlled, intelligent, calculating and capable.

This is rich territory. And even with the shortcomings of ‘Suicide Squad,’ this is a rich character, a character well deserving of more exploration. Maybe the writers, directors, executives, and other underlings of the DC Cinematic Universe will find a way to not fuck that one up.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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Harley Quinn Has Arrived

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The new ‘Suicide Squad’ trailer dropped a few days ago, and Harley Quinn has arrived in full-force.

You might know actress Margot Robbie as that attractive naked set-piece from Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ She played the role well, but the script relegated her to a second-tier character in the screenplay. This next feature, from the DC Cinematic Universe, provides her with a role that is going to define her career – at least for the near-future.

The character of Harley Quinn (Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, M.D.) is decidedly unique in the DC canon. Created by writer Paul Dini and illustrator Bruce Timm, she is a relatively new addition, having been first introduced not in comic book form, but in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ back in September of 1992. The character became so beloved that she was written into DC Batman comics shortly thereafter.

The Marvel and DC cinematic universes began with a ‘fast and loose’ approach to character and continuity. Ang Lee’s interpretation of The Incredible Hulk in his 2003 film ‘Hulk,’  for instance, is a good example of how plot details and narrative structure ignored key traditional plot points in an attempt to create a stand-alone feature-film adaptation. The film was a disastrous flop. The notion of serializing these stories hadn’t been considered possible in the early 2000s, and the only solution was to simplify the narrative and disregard the multitude of graphic novels that came before. After the 2008 success of ‘Iron Man’ – produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures – a new market was identified and audiences began to see a tightening of canonical comic book lore.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was born.

Rather than writing new stories that conflict with comic book canon, Warner Brothers and Marvel Studios have begun to retell, story-by-story, comic book tales that have been in the cultural ether for decades. Prior to the release of ‘Iron Man,’ the tech-genius superhero Tony Stark was barely even known to a majority of casual movie-goers. The success of the film adaptation has made Iron Man a household name. Missteps like ‘Wolverine: Origins’, which retconned beloved comic book characters like Deadpool (much to the disappointment of die-hard fans), are being reexamined. The mistakes of the past can’t be undone, but there is nothing to prevent adopting more faithful story adaptations moving forward, which is precisely why we are seeing what appears to be a more true-to-comic ‘Deadpool’ film coming out in February.

Harley Quinn has always been a fan favorite – sexy, smart, and crazy-as-hell. Every man out there feels like he’s dated her before. And, despite the scars, we all kind of want to date her again. Time will tell if ‘The Suicide Squad’ remains faithful to her cartoon and comic book origin story. Something tells me that DC has taken a lot of lessons over the past decade, and the tale will be properly adapted.

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