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First Joker trailer with Joaquin Phoenix is one disturbing nightmare

No joke.

Joaquin Phoenix is Arthur, aka the Clown Prince of Crime.
Nikotavernise.com/Warner Bros. Pictures

The first trailer for Joaquin Phoenix's new movie Joker isn't kidding around.

The Todd Phillips-directed origin story has been teased as a grittier take on DC's Clown Prince of Crime, with a few images trickling in that show Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian whose hardships in a bleak city lead him to insanity.

The first trailer looks suitably disturbing and delivers on that promised darker tone. A smiling Arthur in full clown makeup is, well, as scary as a clown. While a social worker attempts to help him with the aforementioned insanity, his line, "I used to think my life was a tragedy. But now I realize, it's a comedy" and a violent encounter with street thugs no doubt point to the tragedy to come.

Now playing: Watch this: First Joker trailer has a gritty, dark tone

The cast also includes Robert De Niro as a talk show hostZazie Beetz (the awesome Domino in Deadpool) as a love interest, Marc Maron as someone called Ted Marco, Bill Camp as a cop and Frances Conroy as Arthur's mother in an ever-steely Gotham City.

This is the first DC film to be separate from the DC Extended Universe, so we can expect no attempt to connect events here to those in the Justice League.

With eerie strings from Sicario: Day of the Soldado composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, Martin Scorsese co-producing and a tighter budget ($55 million) compared with your average superhero caper, this is looking like a Taxi Driver-level character study well worth a gander.

Joker springs out of the box Oct. 4 in the US and UK, and Oct. 3 in Australia.

Check out our sister sites GameSpot, Comicbook.com and Entertainment Tonight for more Joker coverage.