The return of the Jared Leto’s Joker: A recipe for disaster

This Joker is as fake as his tattoos, Jared Leto’s return is a recipe for disaster

We all know movies are constantly in flux these days. Announcements are made and later retracted; cast and crew are fired; releases are sometimes postponed for years. As the Joker would say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger.”

Few projects exemplify that more than the Snyder Cut of Justice League. What started as a simple re-edit to allow Zack Snyder to make the superhero team-up he originally intended has now grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise involving reshoots and recasts out the wazoo.

As hectic as the situation is, perhaps the most shocking news came last week. Against seemingly all odds, we learned that Jared Leto would join the fabled film, reprising his role as the Joker.

He first played the iconic supervillain in 2016’s Suicide Squad, garnering headline after headline for his onset method acting antics. To his chagrin, though, most of his scenes were cut from the final film, and the remaining stuff mostly underwhelmed viewers.

After years of rumored projects in the works, it looks like Leto will finally get a second chance at the character with this recut. In the eyes of this fan, however, that is not a good thing.

Joker not being funny is the least of his problems

That pessimism comes down to two reasons. First and foremost, Leto sucks at playing the Clown Prince of Crime. Part of that can be blamed on the sloppy script, but it also stems from the fact that he tends to go over the top in genre films. We see this in Blade Runner 2049, where he’s mannered to the point of annoyance.

This is amplified with his Joker. The overriding problem is that he doesn’t have a strong sense of identity. You’re not really sure what type of character he’s supposed to be. He makes animal noises; he sways back and forth; he slowly contorts his face to show off his metal teeth; and all of his lines are so needlessly drawn out that it kills any energy or tension in the scene. He just seems weird for the sake of being weird.

They say acting is reacting. You play off the other people in the scene, but Leto’s Joker always seems to be in his own little world. It’s as if he’s saying, “Look how colorful I am.” Because of his method acting harassment on the set, perhaps director David Ayer was afraid to approach him and take a more active role in crafting the performance.

Alternatively, maybe he thought he was watching the next Daniel Day-Lewis and didn’t want to break his stride. Either way, Ayer was seemingly unable or unwilling to reign Leto in. It’s likely why this Joker feels utterly aimless and is painful to watch as a result.

You might argue that he didn’t get a fair shake with viewers due to his limited screen time. However, we saw more of him in the extended cut, and he was just as cringe-worthy in the new scenes as he was in old ones. Neither the performance nor the character were any more effective with the added material.

On top of that, we shouldn’t have to see three hours of a performance to determine whether it sucks. The quality should be clear with a few scenes max. Look at past portrayals of the Joker, be they live-action or voiceover. When you watch guys like Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Mark Hamill, John DiMaggio, Michael Emerson, and Cameron Monaghan, you know immediately what they’re going for and why they work.

Add to this the fact that, since Leto’s failure, Joaquin Phoenix has stepped into the clown’s shoes. His brilliantly nuanced and eerily affecting turn in Todd Phillips’s Joker, which served as an origin story for the character, was widely beloved by fans and general audiences alike. After that massive success, Leto’s version just seems irrelevant.

This town ain’t big enough for the two of us!

That brings us to the second reason that Leto should stay away: his conduct. Following the release of Suicide Squad, he vocally lashed out at the studio. Amidst the expletives and biting remarks, he expressed irritation regarding his reduced role, saying he felt tricked into signing on for a different film than what he got.

As immature as his responses were, they were also perfectly understandable. After all, no one likes being lied to. We know how studio meddling can ruin a movie, and it’s no secret at this point that Suicide Squad was rife with reshoots and recuts as a means of damage control. Thanks, Batman v Superman. Your awfulness knows no bounds.

Sadly, Leto seemed to take things a bit too personally. It was later reported that he pulled strings to get Phoenix and Phillips’s Joker movie shut down, using his connections in both the music and movie industries in a desperate attempt to stop the flick before it started.

Yes, he was that petty about it. He was so salty and full of himself that he didn’t want anyone else playing the Joker except him. He’s the chosen one, after all. This character and the studio don’t deserve to do well if he’s not involved.

Combining that kind of ego with Zack Snyder, whose flicks are pretentious enough as it is, could make for one of the most insipidly pompous, pseudointellectual viewing experiences in recent years. Then again, it could be another case where Leto isn’t in it much.

This is supposedly a recut of an existing film. The Joker wasn’t in Justice League the first time around, nor was he marketed as such. Because of that, his role in this new version might be a cameo or a bit part, possibly as part of the league of villains teased at the end with Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor (another hated performance, by the way).

Whatever the case, should Leto’s behavior really be rewarded? He threw a hissy fit when things didn’t go his way, and he actively made life difficult for everyone involved and even those who weren’t. Now, he’s gotten what he wanted. However, should he have been thrown to the wayside instead?

What am I saying? This is Hollywood. People get stuff they don’t deserve all the time. I suppose that’s what makes it so special when an artist earns something through merit.

Regardless of my gripes, Leto’s Joker is returning in the Snyder Cut of Justice League. We’ll have to wait and see how prominent he’ll be and if the final product will be better than the initial offering.

What do you think of this news? Did you enjoy Leto’s Joker? Are you looking forward to this new version of the Justice League?

Joker, Suicide Squad, Justice League, Batman v Superman, and numerous other DC movies are available on HBO Max.