Let’s get this out of the way. I never wanted this movie. I have always thought that Joker needed no real backstory. Even Killing Joke came a bit too close for my liking. Sure, sometimes backstories are well written, and make sense. Then sometimes you get Wolverine Origin, that just throws away any hope of a good tale that adds to a character’s depth at all. Then you get an even worse movie in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I hate that movie so much it hurt to type out the title. So, no thanks, I am good without a Joker origin movie.
News started rolling out. Joaquin Phoenix signed on. Well, at least they got someone that will give it their all. On set pictures are released with Phoenix in costume. I’m not digging it. The teaser is released, and I have all but forgotten about this movie. Fast forward to the movie releasing. The critics seem to praise it, but they keep giving it pretty low scores. All the surrounding buzz makes me wonder what kind of media stunt this movie is trying to pull? Saturday rolls around, and some plans end up getting cancelled last minute with friends, so I suggest out of nowhere to watch the 10:30pm showing of Joker. Tickets are bought, seats are picked out, let’s do this.
I do have a tendency to fall back on cinema for an easy outing. I went in with little expectations. I came out with a sort of blank expression. What did I just watch? Did I like it? Was it entertaining? Well, I can tell you right now it was disturbing. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. The Joker movie we got was indeed the definitive origin story. I won’t go into spoilers outside of the trailers, so you are safe to read on.
Director Todd Phillips decides to take a few pieces of The Killing Joke and it helps to write a tale that, from beginning to end, revolves around Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Arthur Fleck. Set in the 1980s, Gotham City is in turmoil. Well, that’s honestly nothing new for Gotham City really. But this turmoil isn’t being reigned in with the help of one caped-crusader, as Bruce Wayne is still a young boy with both of his parents above ground. What we get is the day to day life of Arthur. Now, right away I could tell that some people would have a problem with that, and the way this movie was shot. It is intended to portray a story without all the smoke and mirrors of today’s big budget, green screen settings and special effects. We get the dirty side of Gotham, complete with papers blowing around the smog filled streets, as if the city itself is in despair, and sees no light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t get the majestic high rise looking down on a serene set piece while the bat signal hangs in the sky. You wanted Joker, well, you got him, for the full two hours.
Well, maybe I should say Arthur. You get Arthur Fleck for the full two hours. Arthur, trying to make his life have meaning. Going from his day job as a clown, to seeing a therapist and begging her to up his medication to help him feel something. Anything. You see him getting beaten down not only by life, but also numerous people for various reasons I won’t spoil here. There is no catching a break it seems. And that’s the movie. There is no look on the bright side, or the slightest hope that things will work out. If they had, then why would we even be watching this movie? You want to see how far this man can go before something snaps. Not cheering him on, but sort of knowing how twisted for all these years the Joker character can be. We want to see how it started, but we also want to see if Joker becomes what we have come to expect. Boy does Phoenix deliver here. I can’t begin to describe how uncomfortable I was watching this transition, and how eerily realistic Phoenix was pulling it off. He honestly convinced me that it could be him, which is nigh impossible these days. That’s why I say I was just blank when I left the movie.
For a movie to just, I don’t know, feel like less of a fantasy and more of a part of life that you wish you could look away and forget it exists, Joker left me reeling. On one hand, the movie was well shot, the soundtrack was spot on, and it really highlights the little things, like Arthur’s interaction with his mother, and how he wants things to go in his head, but you quickly learn that reality sets in, and makes you start questioning what really happened and what was in his head. Levels of trickery and scene wrap ups near the end leave you with a- that didn’t happen?- feeling. Sort of like American Psycho, or Fight Club. When we get that climax, seeing Phoenix with the green hair, the make-up, and the complete change of character, you start to see where Arthur exits, and Joker enters. You start seeing glimpses of how this person can become that criminal mastermind that can’t tell up from down. So this movie was the journey. The journey that you should know the conclusion to, and Joker hits it out of the park.
I’ll end it this way. This movie, while unsettling as it may be, was well worth the ride, if you know what you’re getting into. Is it something I could watch over and over? No, but some of the best movies were never meant to be watched again and again, nor were they meant to have sequels. As far as I know, this is a standalone movie, and it needs to stay that way. Period. As it is a work of fiction, and most works of fiction reflect reality, I will stay way from all of the speculation. You came to read about Joker, I went to watch a movie about Joker, so let’s all stay on the same page here. This is a movie review, and we are all here to have fun! So let’s put on a smile, shall we? Is Phoenix the best Joker? That’s a tough one. We don’t get to see enough Joker to give him a fair shot. I will say he will always stand out in my mind above the rest for what he did, but we’ll never truly know. But the journey? That will always be it for me. I doubt it will ever be outdone. What? My time is up? Really? But I didn’t even get to say SOCIET-…………..
Phoenix delivers an outstanding performance
Seeing the actual story play out
What you see is what you get. No green screen madness
How disturbed the film left me
I can see where this style of movie wouldn't be for everyone
How disturbed the film left me(this is good and bad)