Todd Phillips’ Joker has finally hit theaters. Here’s our take on the latest iteration of the clown prince of crime.
This articles is going to have two parts to it: a movie review and a society review. It will be in that order so if you don’t really care to listen to some cis white kid stand up on a soap box and proclaim how smart he is, you are free to go with an idea how you can spend your weekend. It’s not like there is much else playing right now besides Abominable and Ad Adstra (Or Dolemite is my Name, if it’s in a theatre near you), so it’s not like this review is going to sway your decision to see the only new movie of mention out.
If you are expecting this to be a big budget popcorn Marvel movie, then you’ll be largely disappointed, and probably bored. If you are expecting this to be a pissing contest to see if Joaquin Phoenix can be more of an edgelord than Heath Ledger’s portrayal, then you are going to be disappointed. The films are tonally different and each did what their films needed them to do, there is not a real comparison to be made. Much like when people try and compare Nicholson and Ledger, when you get down to it, they are paying dramatically different iterations of the Joker and it is frivolous to compare them outside of your own subjective view. If you are expecting nothing, or something outside of your expectation of a superhero film, you’ll probably enjoy yourself.
The movie relies heavily, almost to the point of it being a detriment, on the amazing performance portrayed by Phoenix. He is hauntingly human and broken in a way that is captivating, sympathetic, and yet, eerie and sinister. You both empathize with him and see the error in his ways. I would argue that there are not many actors who could pull off such a feat, and the movie would have fallen apart without such a strong actor. The supporting cast is there for Phoenix to bounce off of and nothing more. Little of them add anything more than a sounding board for a troubled character to interact with, and distract you while the nuance of the film flows in this undercurrent that takes Arthur Fleck on this journey. I’ll touch more on this later though.
The pacing is…off? Yet, it is done so purposefully- in the sense that it is unnerving how long some of the scenes or moments go on. For me, it did create an eeriness and distrust for a character that I feel we’d otherwise forget is destined to become a terrifying terrorist. However, the awkward feeling each time a scene is held for an additional ten seconds of just wanting to move on to the next thing is far too repetitive for my liking.
Without spoiling anything, the payoff for this movie is excellent and I encourage anyone with an open mind to give the movie a shot. If nothing else, you can join in on the discussions people are having about the film …Like the one I’ll get into shortly.
You want to hear a joke? The movies that end up becoming controversial versus the ones that don’t. There are many who feel that this film idolizes violence and mania; that it is going to be the inspiration for someone to shoot up a movie theatre or assassinate some prominent figure. This is hilariously ironic given the things that happen in the film and also incorrect. The film doesn’t back down from the fact that Arthur Fleck is not in his right mind. He’s an unreliable viewpoint of the film, he’s off his meds, and he feels better after murdering people. Those are not the actions of a sane person. However, the film does present a mirror up to society and forces them to face an uncomfortable reality; there is a part we all play in the creation of a Joker. The social services in Gotham were cut. The help he needed diminished. He was given a gun and not much else. At the end of the film, Joker says he has nothing left to lose. His joke was something like “What do you get when you leave a mentally unstable person without help? Exactly what you deserve!” A little over the top sure, but the point remains. In a society much like ours today, you can see how someone could become Joker like. The fact Batman isn’t in the film is also telling. It is far easier for someone to be more like the Joker than it is to be like Batman. Is that telling? Is that a problem? Is that the point? Yes.
It’s also beyond hypocritical to sit and complain that, “JoKeR iS gOiNg To InCiTe ViOlEnCe,” when others movies this year are far more violent and present them in a far more troubling light when you think about it. John Wick 3 was gloried gun porn (not to say it wasn’t entertaining). Wick is a professional killer with no remorse or powers. He is not a hero. He is just some white guy with an A5-15 (which was an interesting choice with so many other options) with his own idea of right and wrong. We can also look at Rambo, who is a disturbed veteran who literally used to work with the Taliban (go watch Rambo 3, it holds up super well), and then took it upon himself to go to Mexico and shoot the cartel…a white man with a gun can take on problems with Mexico…that isn’t problematic at all… Both of these characters are portrayed as heroes. Everyone knows that Joker is the villain. Most people will not emulate how horrible he is. Maybe, we aren’t doing a good job of preventing those who can’t make that distinction from having the opportunity to emulate. Maybe we aren’t helping them and ourselves. Maybe that was the point of the movie; to get us to have these conversations about a superhero movie. Brilliant.
4.5 Laughing emojis out of 5
Joker is currently playing in theaters nationwide.