Here are all the changes made to Jared Leto’s Joker by the Justice League Snyder cut. Such is the infamy of Batman’s arch-nemesis, every new big screen iteration of Joker comes with considerable fanfare, for better or worse. A good first impression worked in favor of Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix, building hype for their respective movies, but Jared Leto’s Suicide Squad design came in for immediate backlash. Before the Clown Prince of Crime could even utter a word, Joker’s terrible tatts and thuggish persona left a sour taste, and the finished product did little to remedy that. Joker was one of many disparate elements struggling to find meaning in Suicide Squad‘s theatrical cut.
All looked lost for Leto’s supervillain career, but if redemption is the theme of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, there’s plenty to go around. Although Joker wasn’t initially part of Justice League, the forthcoming Snyder cut has added the iconic character to its already enticing recipe, offering the DCEU’s devilish jester an opportunity to become infamous for the right reasons.
Given the negative fan reaction both to Suicide Squad and to the Jared Leto Joker in 2016, it’s no surprise to see Snyder wring the changes. And so different is Justice League‘s interpretation, it’s no exaggeration to suggest this is a completely fresh take on Joker – connecting to the “damaged” night club frequenting gun enthusiast in only the loosest possible sense. Through official images and a new trailer, Snyder has given an extensive early look at DCEU Joker 2.0, but how deep does the makeover go?
Snyder’s first order of Joker business was a complete visual overhaul, as the controversial appearance and unconventional wardrobe of Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad made a huge contribution to the character’s poor reception. Leto goes topless to show off his tapestry of body art, he dons a silvery suit reminiscent of a middle-aged strip club owner, and the closest Suicide Squad comes to recognizable Joker garb is a thick, purple leather jacket replete with chunky gold chains around the neck. While the boldness of the creative direction must be applauded, presenting Joker as an ostentatious modern day street “gangsta” strips away the chaotic intimidation factor DC fans loved about previous incarnations.
Zack Snyder has revealed two new costumes for Joker so far. The first, shown in official black and white promo stills, is merely a hospital gown, seemingly left over from whatever DC establishment Leto absconded from between Suicide Squad and Justice League. Joker wore something similar in Arkham Asylum during his 2016 debut, but the new getup is dirtier and dingier – a fitting example of Justice League‘s dark grit against Suicide Squad‘s stylistic sheen. As revealed by the latest Justice League trailer, however, Joker’s main costume incorporates a baggy white shirt and a SWAT vest covered in badges (these are confirmed to be trophies from killed officers). This thrown-together, morbid outfit is far more familiar ground for Joker, even without the trademark purple suit. Not only is the outfit a completely new aesthetic, but it’s symbolic of a brand new mindset for Jared Leto’s Joker – something less materialistic and more philosophical.
Even more so than his divisive threads, Jared Leto’s Joker was defined by his unusual selection of tattoos in Suicide Squad. There’s a skeletal jester, a “J” on his face, several smiling mouths, lots of “HAHA” lettering and, of course, “Damaged” across the forehead. It was all far too on-the-nose, removing any notion of mystique or nuance Joker might’ve had – the villainous equivalent of Batman getting “O-R-P-H-A-N-E-D” inked across his finger knuckles. As with the radically different costume, Joker’s DCEU body art took him down a path that fans generally weren’t in favor of.
For his cut of Justice League, Zack Snyder has wisely decided to indulge in some laser removal. Based on the stills and trailer footage released so far, Joker’s tattoos are either hidden or gone completely. At this point, Leto has only been seen in long sleeves, meaning the tatts on his torso and arms could simply be obscured by clothing, like an office worker trying to cover the embarrassing drunken dare. Joker’s facial tattoos are obviously harder to disguise. The escapee might’ve simply caked on the white face paint, or maybe he’s taken more extreme measures like burning his own skin. Joker’s certainly no stranger to corrosive substances, after all. However he managed it, the disappearance of Joker’s much-maligned Suicide Squad tattoos is a welcome Snyder cut change.
Jared Leto’s Joker has only a single line in the Justice League trailer: “we live in a society where honor is a distant memory – isn’t that right Batman.” Aside from making a long-standing meme reality, the scene also confirms a brand new voice for Joker in the DCEU. Back in 2016’s Suicide Squad, Leto’s vocal gymnastics ranged from the high-pitched squeal of Mark Hamill in Batman: The Animated Series to the low, guttural mumble of Heath Ledger, mixed in with some old-time swagger courtesy of Jack Nicholson. By harking back to previous actors, Leto’s Joker voice felt like an impersonation, preventing the Oscar-winning actor from carving out his own villainous niche, and this problem was only worsened by his muddled storyline and unpopular design.
Although we only have the one line to go by, the Snyder cut appears to have drastically improved Joker’s delivery. The grating “squawk” has been replaced by a grave timber, and each word is pronounced with a well-spoken clarity rather than the tipsy mumble of before. Whereas DCEU Joker once sounded like a compilation of his predecessors, the character now has the vocal qualities of a failed amateur thespian auditioning for his local production of Hamlet – then shooting the director for giving the part to someone else. Not only does this approach fit perfectly with Joker’s natural dramatic flair and self-appointed status as a misunderstood philosophical genius, but the voice is quite unlike how Joker has sounded at any time previously in his on-screen career. Finally, Leto Joker has found his voice.
Batman and Joker are often described as two sides of the same coin, so it’s only natural that the fated enemies would put their differences aside to reluctantly work together now and then. Unlike most supervillains who seek nothing short of world domination, Joker’s raison d’être is to wreak havoc and torment the Batman. If another villain’s ambition for global conquest threatens to ruin his “fun,” Joker might find his interests aligning with those of his favorite pointy-eared vigilante. Despite their comic book dalliances, Batman and Joker have never teamed up in live-action, but that could all change thanks to Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Leto’s Snyder cut return comes as part of the Knightmare timeline – a post-apocalyptic future where Darkseid has taken over Earth and terraformed the landscape. Batman leads a small group of human resistance fighters and, along with the remaining members of the Justice League, will break the laws of time to undo what the ruler of Apokalips has wrought upon his home planet. But he might’ve found an unexpected ally in Joker. The Snyder cut trailer shows Bruce approaching a despondent Leto looking out across the Knightmare wasteland, and the usually jolly antagonist is disappointed at the lack of mischief-making opportunities in a world already ravaged by an alien superpower. Knowing Joker’s fearsome capabilities, the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince could form a formidable tag team in the effort to undo Darkseid’s invasion. Not only would a Batman-Joker team-up in Justice League represent a shift away from DCEU continuity, but this unholy alliance breaks new ground in the Joker’s live-action history.