One of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, explores a new perspective on the extremely popular comic book villain, The Joker. Arthur Fleck, a man who feels disregarded by everyone around him, works as a sign twirler, dressed up as a clown. He lives in an old apartment with his sick mother; he’s often beaten up on the streets. Because of this, his world slowly beings to crumble, and he finds himself pushed towards violence.
This film is incredibly well written, acted and directed. Joaquin Phoenix, in particular, is hypnotizing. He is deserving of an Oscar nomination just based on other performances this year. This film leans on the fact that this character is being brought down in life, which makes you feel sympathy, and that can be dangerous. However, in the case of Phoenix, he treads a line beautifully, making you aware of the darkness surrounding the character and making him very dimensional.
As a DC fan, the last twenty minutes of the movie are almost an out of body experience. I have never seen a comic book character so realistically and chillingly brought to life. Especially if you have read, Joker’s talk show appearance in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. It shows elements of the comic, and a few little winks to that story arc as well. If you are looking for a comic book movie with lots of action, that’s not what this film is. It is a slow burn, but I think, either way, you should give this movie a chance. This film also is very similar to two Martin Scorsese films: Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. Many scenes are shot identically to parts in either movie.
Todd Phillips stands on the shoulders of what Christopher Nolan started; and in retrospect, the Dark Knight seems like a fairy-tale compared to this movie, which is what makes this film so disturbing. There is no vat of acid, no nasty scar, no elaborate criminal scheme, and there is no billionaire in a bat suit to take care of things. This is a story people know so well, and what Todd Phillips brings to the mythology is a fresh twisted perspective. Phillips’s view on the character of the Joker becomes a stark condemnation of society. Yes, this is not just a “comic book” film; it’s a social commentary. It’s funny, in a Joker kind of way, that people are only saying that this movie is irresponsible and that it might spark violence.
I believe that is a redundant conversation, one that has been going on since the 90’s– questioning whether violent media is the byproduct of violent acts or vice versa. This shouldn’t be the conversation. This movie is less violent than film in the past, such as Deadpool or even its inspiration, Taxi Driver. This movie discusses the importance of mental health care, government responsibility to society, class division, the importance of being civil to one another, and so much more. There are so many layers. It is chilling how it mirrors today’s society.
However, does this film go too far? I think in some ways it does, but I believe it’s intentional. People are concerned that the movie will be too disturbing to see in theaters, and having seen the film, I understand that concern, and I think it is fine to wait and watch it after it is released. But I do think it would be a shame not to watch it altogether. This is not only an excellent movie, but I feel it is an important film as social commentary and on the comic book-riddled Hollywood that pervades box-offices these days.
To sum up: this is the movie I never knew I needed. I was in disbelief after watching this film, and I have been thinking about it a lot because this movie makes one think. I can’t help but exclaim that Joker is an excellent movie, an important film, and perhaps the best movie of the year, shockingly so to my own sensibilities.