Growing up reading Batman comics as a kid in the 1980’s, I witnessed the evolution of this iconic villain from the earliest versions inspired by “The Man Who Laughs” to Ceasar Romaro’s slapstick antics as the “Clown Prince of Crime,” to the more twisted and deranged murderous psychopath that is the Joker of modern day. Todd Phillips gives fans of the character everything they could’ve asked for in an origin story for The Joker.
The film starts out as Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a lower class struggling comic who has a very unique “condition” which requires him to be somewhat dependent upon the Gotham mental health system only to be left with set back after set back. One of the things I noticed early on, is that the majority of the scenes that were teased in the previews were displayed in the first act of the film, so there is much more to this story than what is presented to the masses.
“Joker” does move at a slower dramatic pace compared to other comic book movies that to some may be hard to get through. But for fans of the comic book mythos, Phoenix does an excellent job of channeling what seems like a mixture of Romaro, Nicholson, Ledger, and even Hamill’s Jokers of the past all while capturing our attention with new original movements as well. With actual twists and turns that many may not see coming, “Joker” actually gets you to sympathize with the film’s psychotic main character’s humanity.
If you’re a fan of film scores, the film’s composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir, finds a way to start off with an eerie presence that builds throughout the entire film, giving the perfect soundtrack for a man’s descent into madness.
“I sat down with the cello to kind of just find my way into his voice and into his head,” she says. “And I’m just like kind of holding onto this feeling that I had after reading the script. As soon as I played those first notes, it really hit me in the chest somehow, and it was a really strong, physical reaction that I got. And I was like, yes, this is it.”
As for all of the buzz about what “Joker” represents and it’s commentary on modern day society, the film makes a very serious point that the character of the Joker simply doesn’t support, or care about, any of the political platforms that may or may not be taken in his name or actions. He is purely the embodiment of chaos.
Joaquin Phoenix has openly talked about how one of the reasons he even agreed to do the film was because it was going to be a stand-alone film and he had no interest in signing on for multiple sequels. However, early reports coming out are that people are loving his portrayal so much that they’re already begging Phillips and Phoenix to consider reprising the role.
“One thing I will tell you: I would do anything with Joaquin Phoenix, any day of the week,” Phillips said to GamesRadar. “There’s nobody like him. If he was willing to do it, and if people show up to this movie, and Warners came to us and said, ‘You know what? If you guys could think of something…’ Well, I have a feeling that he and I could think of something pretty cool.”
Ultimately, “Joker” is a darkened story that holds its own as a stand-alone drama about a psychotic madman who just so happens to live in Gotham City. And while it’s been made very clear from the start that there would be no appearance by “The Caped Crusader,” Batman fans are also given a few Easter eggs that are quite satisfying.
If you see this film and come away dissatisfied, well, maybe it’s because you just “didn’t get” the joke…