Joker is No Joke


Photo Credit: Associated Press

Joaquin Phoenix gives an Oscar worthy performance as the Joker.

October 4th marks the worldwide release of Todd Phillipps’s Joker. So, what’s the verdict? Will DC deliver to its fans’ expectations, or will they release yet another block-buster disappointment? 

DC’s (the comic book studio known for the Batman and Superman series) favorite villain finally receives his long awaited solo film. This Batman villain has seen many renditions — the most acclaimed of which was Heath Ledger in 2008’s The Dark Knight. The most recent portrayal in 2016’s Suicide Squad was met with fierce criticism from veteran fans. Jared Leto’s attempt at a “modern” Joker largely flopped for straying too far away from the normal grit and personality of the character. With record breaking first weekend sales, the newest rendition of the Joker certainly has gained considerable hype.

Joaquin Phoenix does a great job at capturing the character and adding realism and life. The movie follows the story of a failed clown and comedian and his descent into madness. Phoenix perfectly captures the dynamic character and may even receive sympathy from the audience as his tragic origin story unfolds. This movie is by far the most audacious attempt at a villain origin story.

“The neo-noir psychological character study is arguably the best Batman-adjacent movie since The Dark Knight,” said Hollywood reporter David Rooney, in a review of the 2019 film. 

The Joker movie takes a much different vein than what has been seen in modern superhero, or in this case supervillain, movies. Rather than being packed with impressive CGI, meticulously crafted costumes, and riveting action scenes, Joker takes a much more serious approach. The movie contains very few tropes of superhero movies. The typical dichotomy of hero versus villain is not apparent as the story unfolds and the audience is conflicted between supporting the mentally-ill and murderous Arthur Fleck, the name behind the villain, or supporting the society that cast him and others aside. The struggle between good or bad is muddled in grey area. 

New York City serves as the site of filming for the fictional Gotham.

Joker makes stark observation about society’s stance on mental illness. In one of many memorable quotes, Joaquin Phoenix notes, “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

The plot is expertly executed and riddled with surprises. The audience is constantly kept on their feet as they follow the narrative of the unpredictable Joker. The movie does a great job at connecting cause and effect as it shows how even the most minor action has a huge impact. The story wraps together nicely as it approaches its epic climax. Without revealing any piece of the story, I can confidently say that it satisfy veteran fans of both DC comics and Batman.

If you are coming to theatres expecting an action-packed origin story of Batman’s arch nemesis, then you likely will be disappointed. Joker does not merely tell the origin of bad man in his rise to infamy; it tells the story of the apathetic society that drove a mentally-ill individual to lash out and become the figurehead of the movement against it. 

Even without prior knowledge of the Batman series, my final suggestion to make a trip to the theaters for this one. Joker is a cinematic masterpiece that should seen regardless.