review by Bobby Blakey
With comic themed movies being all the rage there are constant announcements of new properties getting the big screen treatment. While Marvel and DC have been building their cinematic universes there are others that are just looking to make a stamp on the genre in a unique way. When it was announced that Hangover and War Dogs director Todd Phillips was taking on a film about the Joker I was instantly interested. Could this movie offer up an insane Joker story worth watching or will it be too crazy to work?
Joker follows a failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and becomes a psychopathic murderer. The film features a great cast including Zazie Beetz, Robert DeNiro, and Joaquin Phoenix taking on the role of the Joker himself. There has been a lot of controversy with this film from the moment it was announced. After the first trailer came out people seemed more intrigued but still a bit baffled by its direction and lack of connection to the Batman film universe on some level. I am happy to say that it is very much still connected to the legacy despite it being its own thing, but this is not the typical superhero story that fans have become accustomed to and that is what makes it so great.
Much like the popular Elseworld’s books in the DC Universe this film firmly plants itself in the world of cinema as its own thing while still being very familiar on some levels. Sure we are seeing the birth of a villain, but there is so much more here. This is a character study or mental illness and the way society treats people that are different. I loved the reasoning behind his insane laughter which made it heartbreaking and terrifying all at once. Phoenix is insanely good here once again showcasing the pure genius of his acting. There are so many moments here that are standout and scream emotion with a lot of them he never says a word. The laughter alone speaks volumes and coupled with his own instability pushes his decline further. He is a tragic character that wants nothing more than to
make people smile and find his place in the world, but fails to find it in the more traditional ways.
This shifts into a brilliant point of the forgotten subjective nature of comedy and overall opinions. This is such a big issue right now and the way it is handled here is pure Joker through and through. At the same time there is also an element dealing with society’s obsession with things and how it goes off the rails more often than not. These elements aren’t so much preachy but serve as both a catalyst to his decent into madness or happiness depending on perspective as well as an important direction in the comic universe we know and love.
I loved every element of this film and firmly believe Phoenix deserves a nomination for his performance but know that more often than not these kinds of films are ignored. Either way it stands on its own psychotic feet as both a love letter to the Joker character as well as its own take on the birth of a villain amidst the downfall of society as we know it. This is also a film that won’t work for everyone, but love it or hate it you will know doubt remember it deep in your own psyche.