Joker Trailer Breakdown: A Movie That Doesn’t Need Batman

The final trailer for Warner Bros. Joker movie has arrived, and director Todd Phillips has a very different vision for the clown prince of crime. This is an origin story of DC’s most infamous villain, but one that isn’t tethered to the DC Cinematic Universe or comic books. Phillips is telling his own story, and this latest trailer gives us a better idea of what this movie will be about.

Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck and follows the character on a journey–or maybe descent–to becoming one of comic books’ most iconic villains. Phoenix joins the ranks of Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and a few others who have portrayed the character, and it seems like Phoenix is putting his own stamp on the Joker. He has his own distinct laugh, look, and his facial expressions convey a character with a lot of inner-turmoil. Most importantly, the first trailer makes it feel like a movie that can stand on its own, without being tied to Batman, as this is more of a character study rather than a movie about a supervillain.

Joker will be rated R for “strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images,” so don’t expect this to be fun for the whole family. The movie hits theaters on October 4, and here’s what we learned from the final trailer for the movie.

Gotham City

On the train ride to downtown, you’ll notice Gotham City is a sprawling metropolis–no pun intended. The downtown area is surrounded by multi-story apartment complexes that increasingly become worse-for-wear the farther they are from the heart of downtown. This opening shot is beautiful and shows just how massive Gotham City is in this film

When it takes place

The first shot we see is of Arthur Fleck riding the bus, alone, over a bridge. It’s apparent from the design of the bus, the interior, and the clothes of the people inside that the film takes place between the early and mid ’80s. However, there are moments later in the trailer that contradict that (cars from late ’80s and early ’90s); regardless, the trailer, as a whole, still gives us the impression this could be around the early ’80s.

A tortured man

Arthur’s back appears bruised and beaten, and his body looks scrawny and fragile, as he tries to stretch out a clown shoe. In the first shot on the bus, there is a look of sadness in his eyes, and here, he seems frustrated, and not just with the shoes. We’re seeing a man on the edge of sanity.

The laugh

Although Fleck isn’t in his Joker garb at this point, we do get to hear the iconic Joker laugh, as he buttons up his patterned shirt, walking down a hallway. It’s haunting and terrifying, and Phoenix puts a stamp on the infamous chuckle, making it his own.

Arthur Fleck on the ledge

Fleck is seen talking to a woman about his life, and it feels like she’s a social worker from the Department of Health trying to get him integrated back into society. Fleck has a job as a sign-spinner, promoting a local store, where he is dressed like a clown. Some kids steal his sign, and he chases them into an alleyway where he is beaten. He’s seemingly a man who has gotten the short end of the stick his entire life.

Fleck is a mask

While talking to the woman, he tells her, “All I have are negative thoughts,” while smoking a cigarette. Behind the man trying to make a child laugh on the bus, dressing as a clown for work, and practicing his “infectious” laugh, is someone else. This is where a transformation begins to the person Fleck truly is on the inside.

Fleck in hospital with possibly his mother

Fleck sits beside a woman who looks old enough to be his mother. She’s on a ventilator, and he rests his hand near hers on the bed. His focus is drawn to a television where Murray Franklin’s (Robert De Niro) late night show is playing.

Look ma, I’m on TV

Franklin shows a bit from Fleck’s stand-up comedy routine, which is actually a pretty solid joke. “When I was a little boy and told people I was going to be a comedian, everyone laughed at me. Well, no one is laughing now.”

De Niro is dismissive of Fleck’s joke and garners laughs from the studio audience. We see Fleck staring back at the TV with little emotion. This could be Fleck’s breaking point and a pivotal point in the movie that transitions Fleck into Joker.

Clowns everywhere

In the Gotham subway, someone–presumably Fleck–throws away a clown mask, an item we see a lot of in the trailer. It’s almost as if this imagery is a virus that slowly invades the city of Gotham, as the citizens become part of this cause.

“We are all clowns”

The reason this feels like a genuine movement is that aside from Gothamites wearing these masks, there is someone holding the sign you see above. It seems as though the people of Gotham are fed up with the politics of the city, as the shot right before the sign is a man in a suit walking out of a building. And we think this all revolves around Thomas Wayne–Batman’s father–which we’ll get to a little later.

Fleck becomes Joker

There is a sequence of shots of Fleck transitioning into Joker. He puts on white makeup, including some on his tongue, walks down a hallway in full costume, and then splashes in a puddle outside. He seems to be doing a dance, but if you look closely at his face, it’s angry. Fleck has embraced his inner, negative thoughts, and he lets them flow through him. This is who Fleck truly is.

Fleck and Sophie Dumond

Throughout the entirety of the trailer, there are some sequences with Fleck and Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz) together. They seem to live in the same apartment complex, based on the shots of them riding the elevator together. She comes to see him perform stand-up comedy. They kiss inside her apartment. She seems to be a grounding element for Fleck: his only connection to the real world and his sanity. However, that line is blurred when we see the two kiss, and he’s in full Joker makeup.

Clown murder?

The Gotham newspaper has an image on the front page of a monstrous version of the clown mask we saw earlier. From what we can see, the headline reads, “Latest news on the murder…” It’s cut off from there, but it’s apparent this “clown movement” has taken a turn into dangerous waters.

Cult of personality

As this clown movement continues, Fleck sees a person sitting in the back of a cab wearing one of the masks, and Fleck gets a big grin on his face. It seems like this is before Fleck has his full Joker transformation. So this could be when this movement begins to spread more to the populace.

A protest at Wayne Hall

There is a lot going on in this shot. First, the building where this protest is happening is called “Wayne Hall,” and that’s a pretty good reminder that the film takes place in Gotham. Again, we think this protest has something to do with Thomas Wayne, as we earlier saw Brett Cullen, who plays that character. Fleck is seen outside during the protest where people are wearing clown masks and holding up signs with clowns on them.

The banners next to the entrance of Wayne Hall are highlighting one of Charlie Chaplin’s last silent films, Modern Times, which was the final appearance of Chaplin’s “The Tramp” character. The actor considered this character to be sort of a tragic clown.

Escape the asylum

A quick sequence shows Fleck in what appears to be a psychiatric facility, where he may be stealing some files and trying to escape with them. Could these be his own files he wants expunged from his record? Since we know he’s talking to a social worker, that seems like the case.

Don’t laugh at Thomas Wayne

Apparently, Bruce Wayne’s father can also pack a punch. It’s no secret that Brett Cullen was cast as Thomas Wayne; however, he’s in this trailer quite a bit, and we didn’t think he’d be so heavily featured in the film. We’re pretty sure this scene happens after the protest in front of Wayne Hall because Fleck is wearing the same outfit. “You think this is funny?” Wayne says to Fleck. “Is this a joke to you?” Thomas then goes on to punch Fleck in the face as he laughs.

Gotham is in chaos

Modern Gotham is no stranger to explosions, hostile takeovers, death, and madness. However, this version of the city doesn’t seem prepared for what this clown movement is capable of. An ambulance purposely smashes into a police car and a man in a clown mask smashes a car window. We see people on a subway in clown masks fighting those in street clothes with Joker right in the middle of it all. There is no Batman to stop this, so how does it all come to an end?

“Can you introduce me as Joker?”

The trailer ends with Joker, in full costume, about to go on Franklin’s late night talk show, and Fleck wants to be introduced as “Joker.” Traditionally, this is what the character wants. He wants the world to know who he is and to be terrified of him. However, we can’t be too sure if this moment happens before or after the city goes into chaos, which is presumably led by Joker.

We’ll learn more when Joker hits theaters on October 4.