Impractical Joker: Why Jared Leto Failed Us In Suicide Squad

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Sadly, of all the actors who’ve taken the dive into the character’s perversion, Leto’s hollow, hateful Joker may be the weakest portrayal we’ve seen yet. It’s a steep dive, to be sure, one that requires the performer to consider the darkest corners of the human psyche and operate from that darkness with unmistakable aplomb. It’s unfortunate, then, that his performance lacks both conviction and competence, instead coming off as a desperate, desire-driven audition that casts a pall over the film’s proceedings in a big, distracting way.

Somewhere amidst the clutter and the chaos, he loses the dangerous edge that makes the Joker so fun and fearsome. He loses part of what makes the Joker…the Joker. Here, he’s just a slick-haired, silver-grilled criminal with the hots for Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and a penchant for wanton destruction (which, admittedly, keeps him close to the character’s roots). That’s really all there is to him, and that’s a shame.

Beneath Leto’s need to emulate Ledger lies a performance that could’ve meant something within the context of the DCEU (DC Extended Universe). With layers (and emotions) stacked sky-high, Leto’s Joker possessed potential that he squanders the second he steps onscreen, alternating between gangster and lover before reverting back to the former for the rest of the film.

Why not expand on the loving, lustful side of the Joker? And why give us something we’ve seen a better version of in a better movie instead? He’s not consistent and he’s not compelling, so what exactly can he bring to a movie that so desperately needed him to show up? All he does is show off. This is the Joker we’re getting for the foreseeable future, and so far, he hasn’t delivered.

His performance functions as a bad impression of Ledger, whose Tom Waits-inspired Joker introduced us to a new version of the character that, for many, became the definitive iteration. Leto won’t enjoy the cultural clout that Ledger has posthumously earned, and it’s unlikely that he will endure or endear himself as anything other than a wannabe who played to someone else’s strengths.

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