Joker is a comic book psychological thriller directed and produced by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote with Scott Silver. The film presents a possible origin for the Clown Prince of Crime. I previously reviewed it for the Daily Wire where I focused on some of the themes and the technical aspect. For this review, I want to focus on other topics.
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a failing stand-up comedian living in Gotham City with his mother Penny (Frances Conroy). He is a frequent patient to their social services, but they are soon cut, forcing him to live out his life with a job as a party clown. He idolizes late-night talkshow host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) and daydreams he would have a sort of father-figure relationship with him. After being fired from his job, he rides the tram where he is assaulted by three Wayne Enterprises employees who he kills. He is shocked to find the deaths cause a wave of support in Gotham which start protests. This incident earns the attention of mayoral candidate Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), who calls him and his supporters a “clown.” This incites more protests and to Arthur’s surprise, he is seen as a folk hero of sorts. However, as he realizes more about his life and what was untrue, he starts to unravel and grow more violent.
Joaquin Phoenix delivers a powerful performance as Fleck. While the characterization of the Joker is not the usual one you see in other films. This movie focuses less on the escalation of violence and more on the descent into madness. Where Cesar Romero presented a crazy clown, Jack Nicholson a psychotic hitman, Hammil an intelligent (yet crazed) madman, and Heath Ledger a virus plaguing the city, Fleck is a disturbed man who is caught up in a disturbing circumstance.
Philips presents a different take on the tale. With the other actors listed above showed how they affected Gotham, this movie shows how Gotham affects the Joker. It was a risky move that Philips played and while it did make the narrative seem a bit disjointed at times, it definitely made the movie more of character study,
As a comic book fan, I watch this movie as a what DC Comics calls an “Elseworld.” These are alternative takes on the characters we love, for instance, there is one where Bruce Wayne becomes Green Lantern instead of Batman. In that regard, this movie is top-notch, presenting a creepy and disturbing tale of a man who has been abandoned by a system that is supposed to help him, forcing him to rely on people who only want to use him as an icon. He turns to them because they “see” him. In that regard, it puts his performance as the Joker in the top five to be sure.
Of course, the gatekeepers are trying to say it is not a “comic book” film and as usual, they are wrong. It features many scenes, lines of dialogue, scenery, and tropes from the source material. Now, it does remove cliches about the Joker origin, but it does not remove itself from the comic book world.
Naturally, Warner Bros. and DC Films are reading all of the wrong messages like they did for the DCEU. For instance, when fans reacted to the tepid Man of Steel, instead of thinking, “maybe Superman shouldn’t kill people,” they thought, “oh, they want Ben Affleck to moon the audience as Batman.” Wrong on every level. Now, there is talk of more villain spin-offs when that is not why the movie was successful. It was successful because it was a good movie, not simply because they made a movie about a popular comic book villain.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Disturbing scenes, Foul language, Violence, Psychological terror
FAVORITE QUOTE: You don’t listen, do you? I don’t think you ever really hear me. You just ask the same questions every week. “How’s your job?” “Are you having any negative thoughts?” All I have are negative thoughts.
Check out the trailer below:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my movie reviews of The Laundromat and Richard Jewell. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.