What were the problems with Jared Leto’s Joker portrayal

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The Joker Jared
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Jared Leto is definitely not my favourite actor. By no means is he bad at what he does, I just don’t think he’s very good. Considering I’ve only seen him in Fight Club (1999) and Suicide Squad (2016), I suppose I’m a tad biased. But that doesn’t matter, what I really want to discuss is Jared Leto’s method of acting. More specifically though, the method he took in portraying The Joker in Suicide Squad.

But I can’t just say “that is bad” without actually backing up my claims. There must be something throughout this film that made me think his performance was poor. Absolutely there was, why else do you think I’m writing an article about it? I should go into this review by stating I have seen four other Joker actors. From best to worst it is as follows. Heath Ledger, Mark Hamill, Jack Nicholson, Cesar Romero and then Jared Leto. Leto will always be on the bottom of that list no matter what he tries to do.

The dialogue

A big problem that Suicide Squad had on the whole is that the dialogue was terribly written. Presumably what happened is that they took all the bad parts of The Joker and decided to work with that. It genuinely does feel like the film is trying to do that. Of course, this is no more apparent than in the dialogue given to The Joker.

Let’s be honest, it was always going to be down to not only the dialogue but the delivery also. While the dialogue is genuinely some of the worst written shit I have seen, it’s up to the actors to make it work. To do this, Jared Leto tries his absolute best to not make the dialogue work. He delivers his lines with the most deadpan expressions imaginable. If this was his idea of method acting the role then he was severely wrong for the role.

Compared with literally any other Joker performance, Leto stands out like a very sore thumb. It’s definitely possible that one of the biggest problems that stands in our way is that he’s not in the film all that much. Clearly it’s a blessing and a curse. We don’t have to see his terrible performance, but maybe with a little more time and space, it would have been more fleshed out.

The appearance

My biggest issue was the look of The Joker, especially when compared with other iterations of the character (Suicide Squad – 2016 – CC. Warner Bros.)

I always wonder what the hell was going through the mind of the people involved in this film. This question was at the very forefront of my mind when I first saw The Joker in this film. For some reason they’ve gone for a gangster style look to the character. They’ve also given him a full set of what I can only presume are silver teeth. Given that The Dark Knight (2008) has the perfect perception of The Joker, it feels like Suicide Squad tries and fails to do something new.

You can’t fault a film for trying something new though. I do appreciate the fact that this film tried to reinvent The Joker. However, you can’t reinvent something when you’re trying to go off of something perfect. I’d say Mark Hamill’s portrayal within the Batman: Arkham Asylum series is equally as good. What both of these Jokers have in common is that they rely on a great deal of flair and colour. This is lacking in Jared Leto’s portrayal.

Effectively, Jared Leto is playing a gangster and nothing more than that. He ditches the awkward charm and disturbing fear that other Joker performances have instilled. I’d put this factor entirely down to the look of The Joker. I can’t take him seriously, especially considering he’s dressed like a tool. Either go dark or go for the comic, don’t go on your own path to generic mafia look.

The method acting

Method acting is tricky. Let’s get that very clear because it’s one of the reasons that Leto’s Joker sucks. I talked about this briefly in my review of Suicide Squad but I wanted to go into a bit more depth. One of the reasons The Joker in this film is terrible is because of how Jared Leto approached the role.

Nobody expected him to go to the lengths that Heath Ledger went to, especially considering that played a factor in his death. What people were expecting though is that Leto’s performance would not resemble a pile of shit. This can be narrowed very easily to how Leto actually approached the role. He seems to have ditched the idea that The Joker is a smart villain in favour of a more psychotic approach. That’s surprisingly fine, so long as you make it work.

Any scene with The Joker in it would go one of two ways. Option one is that he laughs, option two is that he looks a bit miffed. Either way, both outcomes were equally as poor. Compared to others that have played the role, such as Jack Nicholson, Leto’s Joker definitely takes a very stupid approach. His way of getting into character was just to be a dick to everyone. That’s not method acting, that’s just being a dick to everyone.

Conclusion

What can we learn from Suicide Squad and, more specifically, the performance of Jared Leto? Don’t act like a tit is what I took away from his performance. I’m sure he’s a fine actor in some of his films, I’m just yet to see an enjoyable performance from him. He’s genuinely starting to put me off of watching films that include him.

Still, the main problem I have with him is his portrayal as The Joker. He’s most likely going to be continuing his portrayal in later films, which bothers me greatly. Every actor can approach a job differently, but it is entirely up to the public whether or not it is an enjoyable performance. For me and many others, it was simply a poor performance, both because of the style, dialogue and the actor himself.


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Ewan Gleadow
I've been writing for various different places for roughly four or five years now. Currently focusing my writing on film reviews, politics and occasional game reviews. Hopefully you enjoy my work, be sure to contact me if you have any criticisms or praise.

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