Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

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WB films/ DC Comics

 

As always, MAJOR spoilers.

You were warned.

 

When the first trailer hit for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice I was just as game as anyone. As a lifelong Batman and comic book fan this was a film I have been dreaming of for years. But as the subsequent trailers and TV spots were released, and more details of the film were spread I started lowering my expectations. I’m glad I did, because I think it actually allowed me to enjoy BvS.

Personally I think BvS was okay. Not great, and not bad- just okay. Which, to some, it might as well be bad- and I understand that ‘lukewarm- spew you out’ mentality. The flaws of BvS are obvious: rushed story and some weird character choices. When some of the things get to being cringe-worthy in the film it makes you wonder how a film can simultaneously have some of the best comic film moments ever. For all its flaws, this film has some amazing moments in it that the audience as well as fans will enjoy. But those moments make the bad sting just that much more, because you know that really… this could have been a really good film

 

The basic synopsis can be found everywhere now, so I won’t waste a lot of time on it. Basically we pick up nearly two years after where Man of Steel leaves off. The world is still

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WB films/ DC Comics

recovering from Zod and Superman’s battle (although… they seemed to have rebuilt Metropolis pretty damn fast) and people are torn on if Superman is friend or foe. Even Superman for the entire length of the film, until the end, is torn on if he feels like saving the world anymore. Batman/Bruce Wayne sees him as a threat though, a threat that must be dealt with before more innocents are killed. Ensues is their fight, but there is another force (Lex Luthor) that wants to see the world be rid of both of them.

 

 

Overall, as I said before, the film feels rushed. It literally follows the same pacing as Man of Steel, which is unfortunate. The first half, in my opinion, is actually great. Well-paced, and sets up a lot and had me invested. Besides one character (which I will get to soon enough) I was really in to this film for the first half and was actually wondering why it was getting all of the hate. Then the “Knightmare” sequence  happened and you’ll know right then that there is a sudden shift, you can feel it.  Something happens that is both cool and confusing and you know right away that that is how the rest of the film is going to play out then. And that’s how it starts. The confusion… the cramped story, that turns a good movie… cruel.

The rest of the film you really have to fight at times to keep straight. I mean, sure, you still understand what is happening: Batman wants to actually kill Superman, Luthor is [kind of] the overall puppet master and doing evil stuff, and there are other metahumans out there. Got it. But the why’s just seem to either get glossed over or left out completely sometimes. Which makes the resolutions to the problems happen seem less cathartic. You’re left thinking “this really could’ve been easily avoided if-”, or “wait, when did they find that out?” or “wait, why was this a thing again/how did that happen?” instead of focusing wholly on what is actually going on screen.  Great example: as much as I loved the actual battle between Bats and Supes, all we were really given before it was a brief training montage of Bruce in the cave- which I didn’t mind. But him creating the kryptonite gas he’ll use on Superman or any other type of planning he does for the battle is never really explained. It’s showed, somewhat, but unless you’ve read The Dark Knight Returns and KNEW that’s what he was probably making, you’d have no real clue what he was doing and then later when he uses it against Supes you’d be left thinking “wait, when did he make that?” More importantly, how? We’re never given any explanation to is this Batman is

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WB films/DC Comics

good at chemistry, or manufacturing, or… really anything other than fighting, being awesome, and some detective skills. I guess we’re supposed to already “know” that Batman can do anything, but it just doesn’t play out that way. When does Clark figure out Batman is Bruce, or Luthor figure Supes is Clark? Or how exactly is Doomsday created? I know it deals with using some of Zod’s body and Luthor’s blood and the genesis chamber… but, seriously, how? It just comes across as lazy story telling when certain things are glossed over. There are tons of other examples, sadly, that I could go on about but I don’t want to meander on the point.

 

The characters really suffer for the rushed second half. Relationships develop, plot points are revealed, and problems are resolved too quickly and in the end while hitting every major beat it just doesn’t feel… complete. What baffles me is the choice of what was included and what wasn’t. There are just some sequences that, while fun, didn’t need to be in the film and I feel like there are probably some that were cut (for crying out loud, there is another 30+ min being added for the BluRay release)  that would have served more of a purpose. Case and point, the Knightmare sequence. While cool I could tell that everyone in the audience who wasn’t comic book savvy didn’t have a clue what it meant. Yes, it serves as a key moment for Batman to decide that he needs to deal with Supes. But it was just all too much. In one scene it introduces us to Darkseid (without actually introducing

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WB films/ DC Comics

him,) and Flash and his powers, AND (kind of) the story of Injustice. It just didn’t serve any other purpose than to look… ahem, flashy and really bulk up a really non-existent side plot. Really it was a post credits scene in the middle of a movie. Actually, come to think of it, I feel like most of the second half of the film was just cut together post credit scenes. That’s the way it plays out. Cool, exciting eye candy that are just really cliffhangers that set up a bigger picture with no real explanation. All these cameos and winks are cool to see, but you’re left confused most of the time and wanting some actual substance.

 

 

 

Now, the characters.

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Yes. This is the one, single character that I didn’t find myself liking through most of the film… and not for the right reasons. The sad thing is, is that like the movie itself, there actually are moments that he nails it. They’re subtle, and very few, but when he does get it you know, and it’s wonderful. But then it’s all very fleeting and waving goodbye as it moves on. I don’t quite know what was the though process with this depiction. He plays out like a mad scientist half the time, which… in the very early days of Luthor in the comics, that’s actually exactly what he is. But it just doesn’t fit the tone of the film at all, and seems weird. Eisenberg is a great actor, and like I said- when he gets it, he gets it. My hope is that if he’s in future films he finds that center more than doing the twitchy mess we got. I will say, despite everything, this Luthor as some very evil moments.

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WB films/DC Comics

Next, Ben Affleck’s Batman. Holy. CRAP. This was, hands down, the best part of the film. Every scene he was in he just ate up. It’s sad that there wasn’t more. I can’t quite decide if I like this Batman more than the TDK/Bale Bat but… man it’s a close call. This Batman in every way was epic. Brutal, fierce, cunning, and just an overall bad ass. Now, here is the thing that I will bet a lot of people will be divided on: Batman and his “one rule.” Do we see Batman kill in this film? Yes. And… no. Defiantly in the Knightmare sequence we see Batman killing.  But the rest of the film I would argue that Batman doesn’t kill any more in this film than the Nolan Bat-films (with two exception.) The BvS Batman really follows that “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you logic.” In some instances he causes things to happen in which it’s possible bad guys would die but a.) that happens in the comics, especially the Frank Miller-verse (which this film is inspired HEAVILY by) and b.) once again, happens in the TDK films (watch ANY of the Batmobile chase scenes.) There are two exceptions. One possible exception is at the very end, where Batman causes a flamethrower tank to explode, but even then one could argue that maybe the guy is just badly burned, but if you argue that I feel like you’re grasping at straws. But as much as I love my non killing Batman… I have to admit, whether he killed the Lex flamethrower goon or not, that moment was amazing. And anybody who’s read The Dark Knight Returns knows exactly how it’s going to play out. “I believe you.” The other obvious (and probably most problematic) one is that he’s trying to straight up murder Superman. In the comics Batman has made contingency’s to kill Superman, so it’s not really like this hasn’t happened or could never happen in the comics. But it’s still kind of shocking to see, and a part of me wonders if he’s doing this to save people why hasn’t he killed to Joker yet… but you obviously shouldn’t be wondering too much about these things, right?

 

Another awesome surprise is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I know when she was cast a lot of people were skeptical, but man is she amazing when she’s on screen. The problem is  her inclusion is seemingly secondary and an afterthought that, while enjoyed and does tie in to the grand scheme of things, was obviously just thrown in there so that the film can

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have that broader scope. While she might be ultimately unneeded she certainly isn’t unwelcome by any means. Her and Batman make this movie.

 

Now, for Superman. This is probably the character I’m most torn on. I think Henry Cavill does a fine job, really. The problem is that in a movie where they are trying to fit so much Superman’s story just gets lost and he’s left seeming really whiny and wishy washy. It’s just… not very Superman-like. Which was also an issue in Man of Steel. That nihilistic, brooding tone is great for Batman and something director Zack Snyder does well… but it’s not Superman. And his evolution goes way too fast. He goes from helping people, to kind of being pissed at people not being thankful, to not sure if he wants to help people anymore, to all of a sudden willing sacrifice himself for humanity. And while that seems like a typical hero arch, it all happens in, like, the second half of the film; a very short amount of time. And it’s this quick turnaround (along with some other aspects) that leave the ending, which I will discuss in a minute, feeling rather hollow.

Other mentions:

Amy Adams is great again as Lois Lane, but I think they used her in distress one too many times. It just got old.

Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred.

Diane Lane is great as Martha Kent again. AND we get a surprise return of Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) that I actually think is one of the best Superman scenes in the film. Felt the same way about his scenes in Man of Steel…

 

Now… on an overall note about geek/fan service of the film.  It’s there and it’s not, just like the rest of the film. There are aspects that comic fans will love, appreciate and are on point. Then there are others that just come out of nowhere and tamper with the lore. I could go on and on about my opinions on what they tampered with, but at the end of the day… I just think that comic fans have been a tad spoiled with what Marvel has done. I’m not saying we should expect less, I’m saying that… well, look at the Burton Bat-films. They don’t follow any comics, yet we love them (well, most do.) Try and be a little open minded. I’m not forgiving all aspects where this film diverges from the lore (I actually really hate how Doomsday was handled in this film)  but some you can see they were inspired by something in the comics or another movie and decided to try and do something new. If you want to discuss this note further I’m always happy to talk comic books and movies!

 

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WB films/ DC Comics

Now… the ending. The ending is actually something I called happening back in August when the first Suicide Squad trailer hit and have discussed with several people. Superman dies. I’m both happy that they stuck to the source material and a bit perturbed. Like I said before, Superman’s arch in this film was just really rushed and because of that I don’t think the impact of his death- his self-sacrifice is fully felt. Furthermore he and Batman’s sudden friendship and Bruce’s mourning and wanting to honor him feels rushed and weird as well. I get it but it doesn’t make it feel any less weird. In the comics Batman is so devastated by he doesn’t even appear at his funeral. While he attended the funeral here, they tried to give him the same level of grief I feel and I just… don’t get it. Literally, like 48 hours before you were trying to kill each other.  It, just like most of the rest of the film, feels a tad forced and rushed. If they just wanted to tell Superman coming to terms with being a hero then they just should have told that story ending with his sacrifice, instead of doing all this other side stuff with Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.

 

 

 

In the end while messy, I actually think Batman v. Superman  is enjoyable. I’m actually going to say the most recent comparison in terms of comic book films would be Amazing Spider-Man 2. So if you liked that film you’ll probably like Bvs. If you didn’t you probably wont, and if you thought it was okay (as I did) you’ll… well, you get the picture. A lot is shoehorned into this film making it feel busy and cramped. It’s not the second coming of hero films like I think a lot of people were expecting, but I also think a lot of people (especially critics) wanted to go in hating this film or certain aspects of this film. If you do that, really with any movie, you’re going to hate it. It defiantly is a film to go in to with few expectations and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are some really, really good moments in this film that shine through. It’s not comparably bad to films like Catwoman, Batman & Robin, Green Lantern, or last summer’s Fantastic Four. But it’s obviously no The Dark Knight or Avengers either. It’s obvious that, despite what they’ve said, WB/DC feels the pressure from Marvel/Disney and wants to catch up. The problem is they tried to fit what Marvel’s done in seven years, across countless movies and show in two movies over the past three years.  I think that the feedback from this movie will result in a few changes in how the future of the DC Cinematic Universe is handled, and hopefully for the best. If  BvS ends up being kind of the bottom film out of it all… I actually think I’ll be comfortable with that.

 

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have a different DC film I’m actually really anxious for to come out in a few months…

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WB films/ DC Comics

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Allosaurus vs. Ceratosaurus

I have always had a very active imagination. As a child, one of my many outlets of creativity was playing with toys. Now, lots of children play with toys- that is not new. But I didn’t just play with them, I created stories and adventures with them that sometimes lasted several hours at a time. My favorite toys were (and this probably comes as no surprise) my Jurassic Park figures and playsets. As I’m sure many of you realize by now, Jurassic Park is my favorite franchise of all time and has been since I was two years old and saw that film on the big screen (yeah, I still remember some moments of that, but that’s a story for another time.) With these toys I would often pop in my VHS copies of the movies and then get out every single figure I had and play through the entire film, scene by scene, with them. I would lower my head so that I would replicate and match the angle on screen. Then, when I would finish with the films I would create my own Jurassic adventures, creating whole stories of peril and survival then playing them out with the toys in my living room

One of my very first dios

One of my very first dios

(much to my parents dismay I’m sure.) Humans often running away from the ferocious dinosaurs created by InGen, many of which not running away quick enough. Ironically enough, the story line I most often recreated with my figures was Jurassic Park finally being opened to the public.

In 2003, I believe, we moved out to the Malone family farm outside of Kempton, IL. A year or so before my family had purchased our first home computer and I was introduced to something amazing: the internet. And on this internet I quickly realized that there were other people out there just as passionate about Jurassic Park as I was. One group of people was those found on the forum site JPToys. There, collectors and JP enthusiasts gathered to talk about the franchise as well as the toys that I had grown so fond of. But in being introduced to these people I slowly began to realize something: that these toys had value outside of just sentimental. These weren’t just toys any more but actual collectors’ items, and really expensive ones at that.

Still early in my dio career. I used a sparkler and placed it behind the fence and lit it right before I took the image to get the effects of the sparks.

Still early in my dio career. I used a sparkler and placed it behind the fence and lit it right before I took the image to get the effects of the sparks.

You want to know how expensive? Just go to eBay and look. I was inspired by others on the site to take pride in my collection and show it off in my room. On top of that I was introduced to “dios.” Members of JPToys would take their figures outside and set up scenes with them and take pictures. It reminded me of the images on the back of the boxes of the JP toys, and I was instantly hooked. One year my parents bought a digital camera for the family for Christmas and I latched on to it the following summer and took pictures left and right. Art has always been another passion of mine, and this was defiantly art to me.

I used the Dino Valley spinosaur and actually used white gas to make flames. I dug a trench around the figure and poured the gas and then lit it. It was inspired by the final spino scene in JP3

I used the Dino Valley spinosaur and actually used white gas to make flames. I dug a trench around the figure and poured the gas and then lit it. It was inspired by the final spino scene in JP3

I did this for several years during the summer months, but as I got older my “dio” making began to dwindle. I was becoming incredibly self-conscious and was

reminded several times by some people that I was a young man, just playing with toys. I’ve generally always prided myself in not caring what people think about me. I mean… it’s kind of a fine line actors and artists need to walk down. But I cared what people thought about this. I was soon going to be heading to college, and while there are plenty of people who collect figures and such who are older I was thinking that perhaps it was something that I shouldn’t do.So near the end of my high school career and in to college I had completely abandoned dio making. My art blossomed in other mediums. Writing defiantly became a facet for me, and I focused my photography on other subjects that interested me.

Then, about halfway through my college career, I took a digital imaging class with Professor Christian Mortenson at Augustana (IL.) He taught us to really go out there with our photography and try and capture things that spoke to us and to really make our own voices be heard on our projects. Find subjects and places that were unique. So, on a whim, I asked my mom to go through my figures (which I had, by then, packed away in large plastic boxes in the attic) and ship a few to me. She did, and then I took those figures around campus and took images.  And they weren’t all dinosaurs and Jurassic Park. Some were of Batman and the Joker and at least one was of the WolfMan. With

Sulfur Field

“Sulfur Field”

a lot of my early work I just went out with the figures and snapped pics, but for this project I really focused on angles and getting the lighting correct and making scenes look natural. It reminded me of when I was a child, playing with the toys in my front room and trying to captures those angles from the film. I brought these images to class, and I remember Chris being fairly impressed. He joked that the Batman and Joker one reminded him of two people cos-playing, and that the dinosaur images looked really natural and realistic- like from a documentary. I welcomed those comments with open arms, but then just sat on the images. I did nothing with them.

Later that year though there was a submission call for art for Augustana’s literary and art magazine- SAGA. I actually went Clever Girlthrough some of my older images and sent one of my early dios that still really resonates with me: a

tyrannosaurus hunting a pair of pachycephalosaurs through a “sulfur field.” The field itself is just a post-harvest corn field and I added the fumes in through PhotoShop. Weeks later I was contacted by the magazine and informed that my image had been selected to be published. My senior year I sent in a few more for thatMosasaurus SAGA mag and they were accepted as well and it was slowly beginning to dawn on me. My photos, my “geeky” toy photos were actually liked by people. People enjoyed looking at them. And not just JP fans, or comic fans. My peers were coming up and telling me what they thought of the images and how they liked them. More important than any of that acceptance though… it made me feel good. Just taking the pictures felt good. Going out, location scouting, and finding that perfect place and position for the figure and then figuring out the lighting felt right. It was fun, and it was a way to escape.

It still is. Today I’m having a resurgence in dio photography. I can attribute at least a part of it being because of the release of Jurassic World, but it’s also because it’s something I find a lot of joy in doing. I live close to a forest preserve and I will take a duffle bag of figures and sets there and spend hours setting up scenes and taking images. Yes, I get a weird looks from time to time but I genuinely do not care. I do think that college and allowing myself to grow as an artist really rex Pursuit helped with that, but also allowing myself to be more connected with my work is a major part. Also, I am realizing that I have a style when it comes to this type of photography and I am attempting to apply that to film projects I make. Setting up these scenes and moments really allows me to think like a director as well as a DP, and it has helped a lot I feel. I’m becoming more daring with some of the shots and angles I take, and sitting down and planning out each and every shot and doing multiple takes of each one. Being this type of micro photographer is helping me become more versatile.

I don’t know if anything will actually come out of my photography. Maybe someday. I’ve had a few people tell me they’d love a coffee table book of these images. My DeviantArt account has never been more alive and active, and I’ve been debating on Brachiosaurus and Gyrospherehitting up a few craft and art fairs with these images. I’m still not certain tCarnotaurus Capturehat there is an actual [paying] audience for these images, but really that’s not the point at all. You do art because you need to. It’s a part of you, and this type of photography is very much a part of me. It’s therapeutic, and fun. It allows my mind to race with creative scenarios and scenes, and at times tests my capabilities. I’m constantly growing because of it. I’m a twenty-three year old man who still actively plays with toys… and I’m damn proud of it.

Yep, we’ve all seen it by now and everyone has their thoughts on the matter. I would have chimed in sooner (as in yesterday, when the picture was released on Suicide Squad director David Ayer’s twitter,  but I was out of town. Still, better late than never.

Now, take my opinion for what it’s worth– which is pretty much a dime a dozen on the internet. There are millions of us comic fanatics out there and, as I said, everyone who has seen this image by now most likely already has their minds made up as to how they feel about it.

First I’ll go through my initial thoughts and feelings about this picture of our new DC Cinematic Universe Joker.  I’ll focus more on the image in general and less on whether or not I think Leto will do well in the role because, well… I think he’ll be freaking fantastic (but I’ll wait until I see some video before I make any real judgments.)

So…

First off and most notably… tattoos. Lots of tattoos. This is probably the only thing I am conflicted about. Let me say off the bat that I have NO problem with Joker having tattoos. One of my favorite comic book images of the Joker is the Jim Lee Joker from All Star Batman & Robin with Joker having a giant dragon on his back. Plus I’ve done drawings in the past where Joker has the card suit symbols tattooed on his knuckles- so I have no issue with Joker having body art.

While All Star Batman & Robin is considered a sub par arch, at best,  the Joker’s scene in this book in which he has sex with a woman before strangling her is cold and chilling to watch. It’s also important to note that this ends up being the same Joker that we see in The Dark Knight Returns. Overall the Frank Miller Joker is hailed as one of the best depictions of the character, and it seems like between this and the way they are styling the new DCCU’s Batman that the film universe is being heavily inspired by Miller’s work.

My issue with this depiction isn’t the fact that Joker has tattoos, but specifically the kind of tattoos he has- at least based on the comment’s I’ve been seeing on the internet. I’ll focus on the body first. I have no problem with the body tattoos. I feel like “meta” is an overused term in today’s entertainment industry, but that’s what comes to mind when I see these tats.  From the smile, to the joker skull, to the comic book-esque “HA’s”—these are all images that are centered around or inspired by the Joker’s character. And the Joker is one of the few comic book characters that breaks the fourth wall in comics, so in a way he’s kind of doing that with his body art as well. He’s acknowledging his comic book origins with the laugh art (the “HA’s”)- that litter the pages he’s on. The skull and the smile remind me of fan art. (and there are TONS of Joker inspired art out there, you needn’t look far)

Now, people seem to have an issue with the art being scattered all over his body. While don’t have a problem with that, I can see where they are coming from. Many people say he looks more like a Joker-goon and less like the Joker. Most of Joker’s goons worship him and have often been depicted as covering their bodies in tats and clown themed body paint. But I can also see Joker getting tattoos himself. I mean… he’s a suuuuper vain character. He only loves himself and… well Batman in his “own way.” So I can totally picture him having tattoos, specifically ones about himself, and maybe a little bat somewhere…
But the tattoos on his face… well that’s another story. I’m just not a big fan of facial tats, period. On anybody. It’s just a personal preference. But for the same reason I can see Joker having tattoos, I can’t see him having tats on his face- he’s vain. He loves himself. So why would he damage his face? But then again, in the comics, he let this happen…

So… who knows. The J under the eye isn’t as nearly as bad as the ‘damaged’ on his forehead. That is the ONE thing I really really hate on this Joker. But once again, I don’t think of the Joker as damaged, as someone who would picture himself as damaged in any way. That word being on his forehead seems forced, “look at me- I’M CRAZY!” The Joker doesn’t need that, and it kind of cheapens this depiction for me.

But in the end… when the Joker dons his garb most of his body will be covered anyway. everything… but his face. Sigh.

Secondly, the teeth. Yes, the Joker has grills in this image. And I may be booed at for this but, I really don’t care about them. I’m not thrilled about it I guess, but at the same time I understood why they were there right away. How many times has Batman, as well as many other vigilantes punched Joker to the point that he ends up losing one or even more teeth? Answer: tons. It happens almost all the time in every medium that Batman and the Joker fight in. It makes sense that Joker would have some false teeth or protected teeth by now. So I have no problem with it really. The silver grills are a bit too “thug” for me, but like I said I understand the creative choice.

Third, his physique is FANTASTIC. Not only does Leto have the acting chops to do the Joker, but his body is perfect (at least in my mind. One of my favorite representations of the Joker is in Grant Morrison’s R.I.P arch, and I think Leto pulls of that look perfectly.

Give this man some razor blades and we are good to go!  I’m actually kind of hoping that Ayer is “damn all” with rating worries and goes all out to make Suicide Squad as brutal as the comics these characters originate from. If that happens and Leto embodies Morrison’s Joker as well as Miller’s  and Moore’s (which he’s also taking obvious inspiration from) he’s literally an Azzarello away from bringing the pan-ultimate horrific combination of Joker’s ever to screen.

Lastly, I want to talk about the overall look of Joker, as far as the facial expression and pose goes. Some may say it’s kind of forcing the crazy, but to me it’s a really nice nod to Moore’s work on The Killing Joke which, anybody who loves the Joker knows that story. 

The inspiration is obvious. And it’s not the first time Ayer and Leto have shown that they are taking inspiration from TKJ as well.

In the end. I want to remind everyone that the film is still over a year away from being released and only just started production a few weeks ago. If this ends up being the Joker we get, as long as the performance is great I can probably get over the look… facial tattoos and all. And…even though we might not agree with all of the creative decisions made on this design, it’s important to note that we don’t know the reasons for these choices. I mean, who knows. Maybe this is just one version of the Joker in a single scene where he’s hallucinating, or “performing” ala Tom Hardy in Bronston style. We just don’t know. Don’t be too quick to judge. Because I remember the reactions when another picture hit the internet several years ago…

And look how that turned out.