There are few movies in recent memory that have stirred up quite as much controversy as “Joker.” From the military being present at some opening weekend showings, scathing critic reviews, to the media warning about Joker-inspired mass shootings, the opening weekend of the film was seemingly a nightmare. Despite all the fuss, “Joker” is laughing all the way into being one of the best films of the year.
Although Rotten Tomatoes (68%) and Metacritic (59%) might sell you an entirely different narrative, “Joker” is the chilling, sadistic origin story that the character truly deserved.
The plot revolves around Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, a rent-a-clown and aspiring comedian living in ’80s era Gotham City.
From the opening seconds of the movie, it’s disturbingly obvious that Fleck has significant psychological issues. In classic, unsettling Joker fashion Phoenix laughs uncontrollably, often at the most awkward times due to a medical condition.
Due to his unstable mental health, Fleck was constantly bullied by almost everyone he interacted with, getting jumped by a group of teenagers and drunken rich kids.
One day, one of his rent-a-clown buddies loans him a gun for protection, which ultimately sets Fleck down a dark path of murderous and vengeful rampage. His killing spree inspired political movement in Gotham, as citizens upset with the sizeable social gap took to the streets in clown masks.
The Wayne family is heavily involved (especially politically in Gotham) and the movie also acts as an origin story for Batman.
The movie is visceral, unsettling, sinister, grim, you name it. There were countless moments during the film where you will feel legitimately uncomfortable and if that isn’t for you, do not go see this film.
A great deal of the reviews on “Joker” say the film is “morally irresponsible” and that it “isn’t any fun.” They’re right. And that’s exactly the astonishing brilliance of “Joker.”
The character of Joker is one of the most deranged psychopaths of cinematic and comic book history. The fact that people feel “uncomfortable” about the film means it’s doing exactly what it was made to do.
Movies are supposed to make us uncomfortable, challenge us and show us worlds we wouldn’t imagine otherwise. “Joker” does just that.
Although some political commentary is implied regarding the media’s ability to create a mob mentality, the majority of the movie is impartial.
“Joker” doesn’t have a central message at all, nor does it have to have one, it’s a comic book movie. The character himself reflects this sentiment.
Although there are legitimate concerns of a copycat issue and the glorification of killing, other forms of media do the exact same thing. Doesn’t “Breaking Bad” glorify drug trafficking? Doesn’t “13 Reasons Why” glorify suicide and depression? Doesn’t “The Godfather” glorify organized crime? Frankly, judging the movie from this perspective is unfair.
“Joker” director Todd Phillips creates a staggering environment for the film. The grimy, garbage-filled, rat-infested streets of Gotham are vivid and unforgiving to a freak like Fleck. The city creates the wicked, mad murderer that is Joker.
With each misfortune that Fleck encounters, you can feel his descent into pure madness and insanity become deeper and more irreversible. His thirst for blood and chaos becomes more and more intense, resulting in the last 30 minutes of the film being a tough watch.
Phoenix’s performance was nothing short of phenomenal, he does justice to and rivals Heath Ledger’s historic Joker performance. Don’t be surprised if Phoenix’s name gets thrown around often during award season.
Say what you want about “Joker,” but it was stylish, evil and truly compelling. If you’re a superhero-movie-nerd like me, it’s easily in the running for movie of the year.