One of the characters with the biggest interest leading up to Suicide Squad was Jared Leto’s Joker. With so many past performances and the seemingly new direction they were taking with this Joker, everyone was curious as to what type of Joker he would be. Now that we’ve seen the movie, let’s take a deeper look into Suicide Squad’s Joker!
Spoilers for Suicide Squad follow.
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Remember when that first Joker image was released? There were so many freak outs, with some claiming the picture was an April fools prank. The Joker was covered in tattoos, including one that said “Damaged” on his forehead. Then there was the whole Joker is actually Jason Todd theory that lasted, well, still runs to this day. After Ledger’s performance, getting a Joker that topped that was a hard task.
And comparing Ledger and Leto’s Joker, there are definitely some big differences to them. Obviously it’s a bit of an unfair comparison considering The Dark Knight was basically Joker’s movie, whereas Suicide Squad merely cameoed the Joker.
Ledger’s Joker’s goal was to prove his philosophy. To prove how absurd the world was and how nonsensical order is. That there is no real difference between good and evil. His goals focused on his absurdist views, not on money or other physical possessions.
Leto’s Joker on the other hand had very different goals. His worldview is sidelined for a different objective, getting Harley Quinn back. We saw a very different side to the Joker, one who was pursuing love. Yeah, completely different to Ledger Joker.
Hearing behind-the-scenes drama, the Joker’s story was a little different in a previous cut of the film. This cut showed a well, nicer Joker. He actually genuinely cared about Harley Quinn. We saw that moment during the chemical wedding scene. First he’s willing to let Harley die, then he has a moment and changes his mind.
We still see a very scary and threatening side to his Joker of course. From killing Monster T to raiding the Asylum and Belle Reve, this Joker is totally unpredictable. However he seems a lot more thuggish compared to a Joker like Ledger’s. Leto’s Joker was more like gangster Joker, looking for his girl. Doesn’t seem as compelling as the absurdist driven Joker who’s out to prove that he’s not the crazy one, everyone else is.
That’s not to say Leto’s Joker wasn’t good, he was. I really enjoyed Leto’s Joker, but what makes the Joker so interesting (to me anyways) didn’t really showcase as much. It’s Joker’s unique perception of the world that makes him so interesting.
What was Leto’s Joker’s perception of the world? The main thing we saw was his idea of freedom. “Desire becomes surrender. Surrender becomes power”. Here was probably the most interesting line from the Joker in the movie. Here we start to see his typical absurdist roots appear. Harleen Quinzel was still tethered to an ordered and disciplined world. A world where invisible rules pull our strings. Where the illusion of order has the power, not us.
Joker is telling Harleen to let go of the illusion. To dive into the madness and embrace it. It’s only then do you have the power back. And so she does and becomes Harley Quinn. She’s no longer tethered to the ordered world; she’s regained her freedom. This is something Joker achieved a long time ago.
It is interesting to see the Joker without Batman. Sure Batman popped up in the movie and even chased the Joker, but we never saw them interact. We don’t really know what the Joker thinks of Batman. Typically, we see a Joker obsessed with Batman, a Joker who deeply believes that Batman and him are similar, that Batman is just denying his true self.
As I mentioned in my Suicide Squad discussion, Leto’s Joker is very similar to the Joker written in Brian Azzarello’s graphic novel “Joker”. In that comic we also saw more of the gangster Joker with his thugs. But then we see at the end that everything he was doing was to get Batman’s attention, he was yearning for his attention. Their little interaction at the end showed how consumed by the Bat the Joker was. He wanted to desperately understand Batman, and was angry that Batman refused to reject the fake order that everyone else mindlessly accepted.
Edit: So it looks like everything I really wanted from this Joker was actually filmed, but eventually cut. Here’s a bit of info posted from an individual (Mr Cinephile on Instagram) who attended a screening of Suicide Squad a few months ago:
So yeah safe to say there was a lot that was cut, and I really don’t like that they did. Those scenes right there show the Joker to his full extent. A man who is obsessed with Batman, who hates him but can’t live without him either. This really brings Azzarello’s graphic novel to life. And of course seeing the flashback to Jason Todd’s death would have been amazing to see.
In Suicide Squad though, from what we saw it really all was to simply get Harley Quinn back. There were brief moments that I found really interesting. Like when Joker asks Jonny Frost where Harley Quinn is. He looks genuinely upset that he doesn’t have her. Then he lays back in a circle of knives and starts laughing.
But we all know that Joker’s laugh is about as fake as you can get. That was the laugh of a sad man who felt lost without his woman. And feeling those kind of emotions goes against everything he stands for, because the Joker has come to accept that you never get what you really desire in life, so instead he learns to love the unanswerable strangeness of life. Feeling those things for Harley means feeling a sense of meaning and purpose in his life. The very idea is absurd to the Joker (probably because he’s so broken by what ever his “one bad day” was in this universe) so of course his next action is absurd, laughing in a circle of knives is definitely a very Joker thing to do. Again it’s interesting to see this side of the Joker, describing him it almost sounds like he’s an okay guy, quite the strange feeling.
So whilst there were interesting moments from the Joker in the film, I definitely feel like a lot of substance was cut from his character.
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I’m not necessarily expecting a different cut of the film to be released (although that would be amazing) but hopefully we’ll see some of those cut Joker scenes come to light, because from what we’re hearing, it sounds like there’s a lot more depth to the Joker than what was shown.