Wednesday Whittling: Jared Leto’s Joker, Just Please No

I saw Suicide Squad.
I had a lot of reactions throughout the movie….I laughed a couple times, I was
weirded out a couple times, I was confused a bunch. But for the most part, I was
ready to walk away entirely indifferent and okay having invested ~3 total hours
to watching it. And then the last scene drove me from indifference to dislike.

This is not a review of the movie. It’s a view on Jared Leto’s Joker in the scope of how they wrote him, and how it impacts the movie. There are spoilers. 

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In the last scene, Jared Leto’s Joker breaks into the secret
prison site where Harley Quinn has been returned. He does so dressed in SWAT
gear, including a vest that says JOKER,
just in case we couldn’t figure it out. I have no idea how he found the prison.
In fact, I have no idea how he did anything the whole movie. He appears to have
a tremendous amount of diverse resources, and just shows up in random scenes.
He blows things up, he convinces people to do what he wants through barely speaking,
he crashes into rivers and buildings in different vehicles and doesn’t get hurt
at all. It’s amazing in the worst way possible.

It’s this lack of consequence that makes it seem as if no
one knew what they were doing with such an enormous character. Every scene the
Joker appears in during Suicide Squad
feels like the viewer is supposed to simultaneously know who he is and also learn who he is. If that sounds impossible,
that’s because it is. The closest comparison my brain has granted me is a
football player getting traded to a new team and insisting on running the same
plays as his old team. But even that doesn’t make total sense. The bottom line
is Leto’s Joker couldn’t rectify what he showed up as with what he was supposed
to be.

I got no sense that Leto’s Joker understood and accepted
that he was crazy, which is the whole reason the Joker is terrifying. Accepting
his repulsive absurdity is what validates his entire being; it’s what makes him
the best villain Batman ever faced and maybe the best villain of all time.
Instead, it’s as if in every scene Leto thought to himself, “Isn’t this wild?”
And you know who else does that? Stewie
Griffin when he pretends he’s smoking.

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I also understand that a ton of Joker footage was cut from Suicide Squad. It makes sense that a
bunch of footage was cut: Suicide Squad is
not a Joker movie. That only means each scene with him is more important, that each one needs to be more prescient than the
last. Besides, if you need a ton of footage to show who the Joker is, you’re
doing it wrong. He needs to be startling right off the bat and in large part
because of his will. Instead, the closest Leto’s Joker got was his appearance,
and that’s the last thing that should
make him terrifying. The way he looks is just a distraction, a tag-along to
make you think it makes complete sense that someone so crazy would look that
way.

I want to emphasize that Suicide
Squad
isn’t a Joker movie, because it only makes me ask why bother having him in it at all? He’s
going to be larger than any other character when it’s a film focused on
villains. His inclusion only waters down and marginalizes not just Harley
Quinn, but everyone. And there
are characters worth spending time on here! It’s decisions like this that make
DC seem aloof to the cards they hold.

Leto’s Joker is the equivalent of a student working really
hard on a project and getting a bad grade. They might ask why and declare how
driven they were and how sharp it looks, but at the end of the day it doesn’t
actually say anything… and that’s the point of the assignment: to compose
a statement of significance.

I make it a point to not get upset about these kinds of
things, to not point out the negative because it doesn’t often help you get
positive. But after Killing Joke, I’m
overwhelmed. I
talked last week about tone.
Unlike Tim Seeley with Nightwing, Jared Leto’s Joker is a complete whiff.

___

And now, you’re free, original comic!

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