Joker: Folie à Deux – 8 questions we have after watching the first trailer

Image of Joaquin Phoenix in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer

Last week saw the reveal of the first poster for Joker: Folie à Deux and now we've been presented with the first trailer. It's a tantalising glimpse at one of 2024's most feverishly awaited properties, reuniting us with Joaquin Phoenix's tortured clown turned-supervillain Arthur Fleck.

Phoenix reprises his Oscar-winning role from the 2019 Joker movie. The sequel, directed by Todd Phillips, explores Arthur's nascent relationship with villain-in-the-making Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn, played by Lady Gaga. Much of this takes place within the walls of the infamous Arkham Asylum where Arthur found himself incarcerated at the end of the previous film. Here is the trailer.

Arresting though the trailer is, we're left with a lot of burning questions that we want answered. Here are just a few of them.


1. Is this version of Harley Quinn true to her comic book origins?

Harley Quinn first appeared in DC Comics in 1992, although it wasn't until 1994 that her backstory was filled in by writer Paul Dini and artist Bruce Timm. They envisaged Quinn as a former psychologist named Harleen Quinzel who fell in love with the Joker during her internship at Gotham City's Arkham Asylum.

Is the film's iteration of Quinn going to follow the same path? In the trailer, there's no suggestion that she's a psychologist, although she may well have been one before the film starts. Given this is a teaser trailer, there will likely be more footage of Quinn's backstory that we haven't seen yet, and this potentially includes her arrival at Arkham.

Image of Lady Gaga in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


2. Is everything Arthur sees a product of his imagination?

There's a line in the trailer where the incarcerated Arthur and Harley are watching a film, almost touching hands, and vow to "get away" together. We then cut to the two characters dancing, in full character make-up, against a stylised retro Hollywood backdrop, and the nature of that cut makes us question whether anything we see in the movie has a basis in concrete reality.

Is Arthur and Harley's romance an extended, imagined narcissistic projection taking place entirely within their own heads? It would dramatically underline the nature of their respective delusions and also serve to bond them together ('folie a deux' translates from the French as 'a madness shared by two').

Image of Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


3. Who is Steve Coogan playing?

A-ha! Who knew Steve Coogan was even in this (aside from the people who made the film?) The moment who will forever be cemented as Alan Partridge (let's also acknowledge his terrific work on Philomena ad 24 Hour Party People) makes an appearance in the Joker sequel as someone quizzing Arthur about his motivations.

Perhaps Coogan is playing some kind of public prosecutor who has taken Arthur's case after the latter instigated incel violence at the end of the previous film. This is all the more likely given that Coogan's brief appearance in the trailer is followed by a shot of Arthur and Harley dancing on the steps of a courthouse. All will be revealed in time.

Image of Steve Coogan in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


4. Where are Brendan Gleeson, Catherine Keener and Harry Lawtey?

The Banshees of Inisherin's Gleeson signed on to the movie citing his admiration for Phoenix and Lady Gaga, admitting that the preparation for his role was "intimidating". Is he playing a fearsome inmate of Arkham or someone on the outside?

We're also awaiting the debut of Being John Malkovich's Catherine Keener, always a dab hand with off-kilter portrayals, and Industry's Harry Lawtey. Whoever they're playing, this is an eclectic and seriously talented cast.

While we're at it, there's also no sign of Zazie Beetz who reprises her role as Arthur's one-time Gotham neighbour Sophie. It appeared he had killed her in the previous film, but maybe not (unless her appearance comes in a flashback or a dream sequence).

Image of Joaquin Phoenix in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


5. Are the scenes on the streets of Gotham real or imagined?

There's one brief shot where Arthur is running down the streets of Gotham pursued by what looks like a Joker copycat. Has he returned to the streets to see how his legend has spread? If so, how has he escaped Arkham Asylum?

Several other moments have us asking the same question, as it looks like Harley Quinn is on the loose outside Arkham as well. The trailer keeps its cards close to its chest (pun intended) by refusing to give away what is objectively real and what is going on within Arthur and Harley's minds.

Image of Joaquin Phoenix in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


6. What classic music tracks will be used in the film?

Joker: Folie á Deux has been described as a jukebox musical that will incorporate covers of pre-existing songs. The trailer is accompanied by Jackie DeShannon's romantic staple 'What the World Needs Now [Is Love Sweet Love,' which was famously covered by singer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David in 1965.

How many old classic pop tunes will be recontextualised in the Joker sequel, and how many different eras will they span? According to Variety the film "integrates at least 15 reinterpretations of 'very well-known' songs." Variety adds: "[One of the songs] is said to be 'That’s Entertainment' from the 1953 musical The Band Wagon, famously associated with Judy Garland."

Image of Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


7. How many classic musicals will be referenced in the film?

The following shot appears to be a reference to the Technicolor beauty The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Jacques Demy's 1964 masterpiece was famously an influence on Damien Chazelle's Oscar-winning La La Land and Todd Phillips may also be mining its rich aesthetic influence for the Joker sequel, as the primary hues of the umbrellas contrast vividly with the wash-out hues of Arkham Asylum.

Image from Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


8. Has Arthur returned to live TV?

In the previous Joker movie, Robert De Niro portrayed the sleazy and ingratiating presenter Murray Franklin whose decision to host Arthur backfired spectacularly when the latter shot him dead live on air.

Nevertheless, Arthur got his 15 minutes of fame from the live slot and it would make narrative and thematic sense for him to return to this venue to cement his status as the new Joker for Gotham City. That is if we believe what we're seeing is real and not the product of a narcissistic imagination...

Image of Joaquin Phoenix in Joker: Folie a Deux trailer


Joker: Folie à Deux is released on October 4th. If you can't wait that long then scroll beneath the trailer and click the link to discover 2024's must-see comic book movie releases.