You don’t judge a book by its cover and you don’t judge a movie by just its costumes.
It is hard to stay away from constant teasers and the “first looks” that dominate the internet nowadays. In an era where superhero movies reign supreme in Hollywood, everyone is grasping for that first speck of knowledge when it comes to the next cog in the comic book wheel.
And with it comes both praise and backlash.
Take a few weeks back. The internet exploded when Suicide Squad director David Ayer revealed the first glimpse of Jared Leto as The Joker in the film. This iteration of the character is the first full-fledged version since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and only the third one to be featured in a film outside of Ledger and Jack Nicholson in Batman. Nicholson is an acting legend and Ledger died following shooting the role and was awarded an Oscar posthumously. So naturally, expectation were high.
The first picture of Leto was met with multiple opinions — most of them bad. Comment sections railed on the portrayal of the character as if Suicide Squad was in theaters the same week. What many forget about the actor is that this film will be his follow-up to his Academy Award winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club, a movie that Leto also “transformed” for and went on to win much acclaim for the performance. Maybe it is about his outside passions (a lot of hate for 30 Seconds From Mars) or maybe people just don’t like the costume.
That’s fine. We all get an opinion.
But what was most concerning was the complete write-off of the film just because of this costume. The movie is currently filming in Toronto, and the internet behaved like Leto had already fallen on his face.
“What the fence. I’m worried for this movie now,” said one commenter on The Verge. “What I’d really love is for the casting of Jared Leto as a joker to be just a troll,” added another commenter on Comic Book Movie, where the article itself speculated that Warner Bros. may be rethinking the whole concept of the character.
It’s one thing to dislike the costume for this new Joker, but to think that the millions of internet opinions would collect into one heap at the doorstep of Warner Bros. and make them rethink any sort of plan in their upcoming superhero universe is both delusional and the heart of the issue with these teasers.
Because in the end, just because a few commenters felt that this costume looks stupid doesn’t mean the people who will end up seeing the movie will feel the same way. Captain America could wear a My Little Pony t-shirt with a pair of purple jean shorts in the next Avengers and people would still line up to see it. And this same vicious cycle happened when Ledger was first cast as The Joker, and when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman.
But fast forward to last weekend when Ayer tweeted yet another photo, this time of the entire cast of Suicide Squad (above). More negativity greeted it as fans grimaced at Ayer’s take on the characters played by actors such as Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, and Will Smith. These actors don’t have Leto’s Oscar, but they have the talent and the pedigree.
With the desire to have as much information as quickly as possible, the hype cycle itself breeds negativity. People don’t hate Leto’s Joker for what he did or how he looks, but hate it because it wasn’t their perception.
The fanboy culture has tainted blockbusters, not because of the content that is in them, but because of the content that surrounds them. Every direct must now subject their content to the osmosis of the internet before they can even shoot their film. It is as if we now hold the key to whether a movie (specifically a superhero one) is good or bad based on the degree and quality of the promotional and concept content coming out.
It’s also concerning that there is now so much emphasis on the set photo or even promo art, as if it has any weight on the final product. Just because Will Smith doesn’t look identical to the Deadshot of the comics, he will instantly suck in the role? Just because Leto’s Joker has “Damaged” tattooed, then it instantly makes him less deep as a character?
Maybe we don’t need a new photo for each character every week. Maybe J.J. Abrams is onto something when he goes super secret with his projects, only to release details periodically like he is doing currently with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (which only continues to rise in praise as more is seen).
When the first minute-long teaser for The Force Awakens sent the internet into a frenzy, there were splashes of negativity where people jumped on John Boyega being a black stormtrooper, or that a lightsaber had a hilt, nitpicking details that now carry zero weight in light of the full trailer. But what would happen if an image of Boyega alone were revealed out of context of everything else in the teaser?
Maybe fanboy culture needs to take a step back and realize that every photo is not gold, and knowing everything before you sit down in the theater is not the proper movie going experience. At the very least, maybe it is time to realize that backlash against the artists in these movies is the wrong way to go. Death threats definitely need to stop, and the way a character looks should be far less important than story and character.
It’s time that fanboy culture takes a hard look at itself and realize that you don’t judge a character by his look.