Grant Davis, Arts & Entertainment Correspondent
First of all, I am not a professional film critic, just a fan of movies and a big fan of comic book movies. I would like to thank you to The Chanticleer for asking me to write a review for this movie. This is definitely a new experience for me, so I’ll do my best.
This is my spoiler free review of Todd Phillips’ Joker.
Joker was probably one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. As of Monday, Todd Philips’ Joker has earned over $100 million dollars domestically after less than a full week on release. The movie has been met with both great reviews and negative reviews and has been the subject of controversy. However, I’m just here to talk about the film from my perspective as the everyday comic book movie fan, so let’s dive in.
Todd Phillips, best known for his work with The Hangover movies, brings life to the first ever Joker origin movie and it is absolutely devastating. The movie is not your typical comic book movie. This isn’t a stepping stone into a larger DC universe, there isn’t an action scene every fifteen minutes, as has become common with the Marvel movies (which I absolutely love) and there is no after credits scene setting up for a sequel, so that in itself is already very different from the typical comic book movie.
Joker is very much about how Batman’s most iconic villain became who he is, and it is a brutally sad descent into madness according to Todd Phillips’ vision. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a character who, due to a brain injury, has a condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably at unfitting times. People find him strange and it gets Arthur beat up on multiple occasions throughout the film. It also leads to him losing a job he truly loves, being a clown for hire. He is fired due to unfortunate circumstances out of his control and it breaks his heart. The beauty behind this moment early in the film is it establishes the fact that Arthur feels his best when he wears makeup and is a clown. He doesn’t have to be Arthur, the man with a mental disorder who lives with his mother. It is very much similar to Peter Parker who loves to be Spider-man.
Both characters love to be their alter ego to forget about their everyday lives. Joaquin’s take on the Joker is very much child like in a way as well. Arthur comes off as very innocent and really just wants to be normal, although due to his condition and upbringing, that will never be possible for him.
In the film, Arthur attempts to become a stand up comedian because it is a dream of his. Sadly, his condition prevents this as he cannot even get through a joke without laughing uncontrollably, ruining his chance at stardom. His idol, Murray Franklin, ends up having film of the terrible performance and plays it on his show which is heartbreaking for Arthur. At this point, he has been beaten up multiple times, fired from the job he loves and now has been publicly shamed by his idol on national television.
The film uncomfortably tackles the story of someone with a mental illness, struggling through everyday life. Joker may leave some viewers disappointed if they have the expectation of a very violent R-rated film but Arthur certainly has his moments late in the film that deliver some chilling on screen acts of violence.
Joker is very much about the psychological effect of violence and how Arthur thrives off the relief he gets as he takes out his frustrations on others. Joker is grounded and gritty and it feels like a film in line with the tone of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which are easily DC’s best films and arguably the best comic book films of all-time but anyways, back to the review. Joker is raw, uncomfortable, sad, and a very well untold origin story for the Joker.
This movie is not for everyone but it is certainly a good film.
Phoenix delivers a sick and twisted performance that is electrifying. He was the perfect actor for the role. I doubt we will see a sequel to this film but my fingers are crossed that we do. I would love to see Joaquin’s Joker take on Batman.
Joker is a film that feels like it could happen in real life and maybe that’s why the reviews are so mixed, it gives an artistic reflection of the world we live in and perhaps that what makes people feel uncomfortable.
9 out of 10.