It’s strange to say that a failing franchise could dig its way out of the mold of zero effort; most notably being literally any DC film since Batman Vs. Superman, due to their need to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the time. However, in 2017 the box-office-busting superhero film Wonder Woman came along and showed that DC can satisfy at least film-wise without catching up to the Marvel hype. From thereon, DC could do no wrong with successors like Aquaman, Shazam!, and yes, even Teen Titans Go to the Movies. Getting right to the point, it’s safe to say there’s no need for DC to top their newest film, Joker. It not only clearly surpasses Jared Leto’s horrendous performance of the Joker in the 2016 Suicide Squad film, but it also opens the door for new ideas in comics-inspired cinema and takes a relatively original spin in the process.
Taking place in Gotham City 1981, Joaquin Phoenix plays a failed comedian named Arthur Fleck. Fleck suffers from an unspecified mental illness that causes him to laugh at inappropriate moments and thus be isolated from society. He lives with his mother in a rundown apartment and watches a talk show hosted by comedian Murray Franklin, played by Robert De Niro. While working as a clown for a place called “Ha-Has,” he gets fired, causing him to feel so depressed he shoots down three men at a subway, making him the newest vigilante in Gotham known as the Joker. This starts a societal revolution against Batman’s father himself, Thomas Wayne, played by Brett Cullen. After this, a lot of surprises happen that I dare not give away, but I’ll tell you now, are chilling to say the least.
The greatest thing about this movie is the overall atmosphere, tone and while at times it may seem dark and gritty, it’s also realistic and doesn’t dumb anything down for the viewers. I also have to give respect to Phoenix’s performance, since much like Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, with a bit of a dramatic and Martin Scorsese-esque twist on one of the greatest comic book villains of all time. The Joker film gives the character a new origin that’s more relatable than cartoonish. It focuses on his disorder in a thorough manner and shows how hard it is to coexist in a harsh environment that doesn’t understand him. The other Joker incarnations were impressive, but this version is too inspired and unique to overlook.
Another strong point of this film is the writing. This film shows that the story of a man dressed as a clown who fights against the system can be taken seriously, as well as having many subtle and surprisingly emotional moments put into its steady narrative. I even like how this film is more laid-back than previous comic book adaptations, with less explosions and largely choreographed action sequences, and simply decides to tell a more relatable story about a man who feels betrayed by society, so you can accept it for what it is.
If I did have anything to nitpick regarding this movie, it would have to be the film’s implementation of humor. Whenever the movie tries to be funny, it’s mostly out of place and distracting especially during serious moments. Does this make me like the film any less? Not necessarily because in this movie, humor isn’t the main focus, but you have to admit when you think of the Joker, you think big laughs all around. To be fair, the Joker’s story is still tragic no matter what version, so I guess it could be put aside for other moviegoers.
On the whole, this movie was incredible and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Though some might argue it doesn’t measure up to other recent comic book adaptations, I don’t really think their main purpose was to outdo one another. Joker is no exception, thanks to its lack of pretentiousness and sole purpose of telling a new story on the classic character and giving him a personality that doesn’t feel the slightest bit unnatural. The film might get too dark at times, but it just goes to show that life isn’t giving out prizes whenever you want, yet there’s moments you can always have a good laugh. Overall, I give the film a rating of 9/10.