I have quite a lot to write about my first day at CinemaCon, live from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, but I know that The Beat readers are probably the most interested in what was shown for DC’s upcoming film slate.
You probably already know how well Aquaman fared last year and that Shazam! opens on Friday. You may even know that the teaser for Todd Phillips’ Joker movie is going to be online tomorrow, but I figure I might as well give you a sneak preview of that as well as a few bits about the DC portion of the Warner Bros “Big Picture” panel.
Aisha Tyler hosted the event and after a few jokes about the sexiness of Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, she introduced a sizzle reel for some of DC’s movies that are in progress. The reel included some interviews, footage and concept art from Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) as well as Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 (which has already been shortened to just “WW84” apparently).
After some footage from this weekend’s Shazam, we got our first look at Birds of Prey with director Kathy Yan comparing them to a girl gang in a “scrappier” Gotham City than the one we know from the Batman movies. Yan says that Harley Quinn isn’t a member of the Birds of Prey that she “delves in and out” but isn’t an official member. We then get looks of the actual members: Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Black Canary (Jurnee Smolett-Bell) and Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) with each actor saying a few words. Smolett-Bell says that Harley makes a big pot of gumbo and everyone gets stirred up. “They have their own desires and goals,” Yan continues. “We’re not pulling any punches whatsoever,” one of the actors adds.
We also got a very brief look at Chris Messina’s Victor Zsasz, but nothing substantial. After all, this was just a tease for a movie that doesn’t come out for almost ten months.
That was followed by a short sizzle reel for WW84, which Patty Jenkins says is a stand-alone movie with Diana at full power. “It makes me want to work harder to do something more special, and then Jenkins talks about Kirstin Wiig’s Barbara Minerva, saying she’s a “sometimes friend, sometimes colleague,” but becomes Diana’s nemesis. That was indeed our first look at Minerva, but there wasn’t even a quick peek at her alter-ego Cheetah (possibly because there’s more CG involved with that character). We also see Wonder Woman using her magic lasso to drag a number of baddies through a mall.
Writer, director and producer Todd Phillips then came out to talk about his upcoming movie Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, which he described its genre to be “a tragedy.” He mentioned having brought his last eight films to CinemaCon. “Like most of you, I have a sick and twisted history with Las Vegas.” (Phillips’ The Hangover trilogy absolutely killed with exhibitors at CinemaCon every year he brought footage.)
“I don’t have a lot to say about the film, because it’s still taking shape,” he said, “But also because I kind of want it to be a surprise. That said, there’s been a lot of chatter about what this film is and what this film isn’t, and most of it hasn’t been very accurate, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you set out to make an origin story about a beloved character that basically has no definitive origin.” He said that if Phoenix was there, he would agree with Phillips describing the movie as a “tragedy.”
Phillips proceeded to show the first teaser for Joker, which probably will be online sometime on Wednesday. It looks like a much more serious and dramatic “comic book” film than all the spandex and pyrotechnics we’ve gotten used to, as Phoenix is playing the character as a damaged man driven to insanity. He says that his mother says to always smile and put on a happy face. “She told me I have a purpose to bring laughter and joy to the world,” the voice-over continues. “Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?” it says as Nat King Cole’s “Just Smile” begins behind the footage.
We see quite a bit of shots of Phoenix as a more traditional street clown twirling a sign, and also see him getting beaten up by a number of people. “I used to think my life was a tragedy, but it’s actually a comedy,” his voice-over states, countering what Phillips said in his introduction, but the tagline from the poster, “Put On a Happy Face,” does show up in the teaser. We don’t get to see the final incarnation of the Joker but we do see Phoenix acting pretty crazy… a bit like his character in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, in fact, with someone else asking, “What kind of coward would do something that cold-blooded, someone who hides behind a mask?”
It looks like this movie will be all about Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, and maybe he’ll be the second actor to get an Oscar nomination for playing the role. The footage really made Joker look more like a Scorsese crime-thriller than the typical superhero and comic book movie, though, and it will be interesting to see how people react to it, especially considering the iconic versions played by the late Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson.
UPDATE: You can now watch that teaser trailer for yourself:
I’ll have more from the Warner Bros. panel as well as the STXfilm presentation that preceded it sometime tomorrow, but tomorrow is also the big presentations for Universal and Disney, which should offer a lot of surprises and first look footage.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.