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Warner Bros. releases gritty and atmospheric "Joker" movie trailer

The trailer for the feature film "Joker" starring Joaquin Phoenix has been released, and it looks to be a fascinating addition to the Batman pop-culture universe. Warner Bros. Entertainment is distributing the film, which stars Phoenix in the origin story of Batman's arch-nemesis — arguably the most famous villain in comic book history.  

The tagline for the movie is "Put on a happy face." The movie poster features a smiling Phoenix wearing Joker's distinctive face-paint makeup, staring up at the sky through a misty background. 

Set to Nat King Cole's "Smile," the two-and-a-half minute "Joker" trailer is a gritty, atmospheric collage of scenes showing Phoenix's failed stand-up comedian character, Arthur Fleck, transforming into the menacing, psychopathic Joker in a 1980s-styled Gotham City. The film seems to be a psychological study of one man's descent into madness and crime rather than a play on the classic hero-villain dichotomy found in most comic book movies. 

"My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose to bring laughter and joy to the world," Phoenix's character says in a voice-over. "Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?"

"I used to think my life was a tragedy, but now I realize it's a comedy," Phoenix's voice-over continues as he's revealed in full Joker regalia: white face paint, smeared red lipstick, green hair, and a purple suit, carrying a bouquet of flowers and tap-dancing like a maniac through a dilapidated Gotham. 

JOKER - Teaser Trailer - In Theaters October 4 by Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

The film is directed by Todd Phillips, who is more known for comedies like "Bridesmaids" and "The Hangover." It's produced by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz. 

From the trailer alone, the film seems to be influenced by Scorsese's classic 1979 film "Taxi Driver," another urban drama that also tackles themes like isolation, rejection and madness.   

The stand-alone Joker feature film comes on the heels of a surge in both national and global interest in DC Comics' Batman universe. Christopher Nolan's Batman feature film trilogy has grossed nearly $2.5 billion at the worldwide box office over the past 15 years, while Zach Synder's 2016 "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" grossed over $870 million. Fox's "Gotham" television show has lasted five seasons since premiering in 2014. 

"Joker" is expected in theaters Oct. 4.

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