The Joker has finally been released in cinemas after what seems to be a very long wait for fans of DC Comics and the character himself.
We haven’t had a live action Joker on the big screen since Jared Leto in 2016’s Suicide Squad which was met with less than popular reviews regarding his performance. However one issue I find with a lot of people’s critiques of the character and Leto’s performance, is that everyone seems eager to compare to the fan favourite portrayal by Heath Ledger in 2008’s Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight.
This film however, already promised that it was separating itself from other portrayals, as well as any form of reference material, and that this new take on the character was going to be somewhat unique, and unlike previous adaptations, this film promised to be an in depth character study of the Joker in a Gotham City without Batman.
The film takes a deep dive into the mind of Arthur Fleck, a young man living with his mother, going through life the only way he knows how, but suffering with mental illness in a world that refuses to accept those who aren’t considered ‘normal’, leads him to dark places.
It’s not just his mental health that causes him to suffer in the world. This film portrays both sides of his mental state, proving that anyone can become victim to these awful situations, but what this film does, is delve into the psyche of the character and his journey that will change his life forever.
I don’t want to use the term ‘descent into madness’ because honestly I don’t think he is going mad. The film feels more like someone who’s simply letting go. Arthur is so troubled by the world that he is pushed over the edge, and decides that his whole life has been a lie, so why not start a new one. A life where he is in control, a life where he can be whatever he wants to be and anyone who gets in his way is an enemy.
Revenge is a strong theme in this film as well. I won’t spoil it here but the film is full of creative twists and turns that you don’t always see coming. The film really does play of the psychology of the character, and as viewers, we slowly have to watch as his world unravels, leaving us feeling uncomfortable.
The score of the film by Hildur Guðnadóttir is dramatic, in some places creepy and uncomfortable but incredible in creating the atmosphere of the film. Her music helps to take us on this journey, representing Fleck’s mind transitioning with sharp notes, long, drawn out tones, which are accompanied by the character dancing, making the scenes stir your emotions. Is this scene funny, sad or just weird?
Nothing in this film is by accident. It is a perfectly crafted piece of art, that brings you into the world of Gotham during the 1980’s. It holds some truly memorable scenes, and even some very memorable quotes, some of which hit closer to home than some viewers might like. For example, one of my favourites is a little note that Arthur Fleck writes in his journal/joke book which reads:
Now this is something that is hard hitting, but completely true. I myself suffer with mental illness, and a lot of the time, you meet people that wish you could just get over it, as if it were that simple. This film isn’t just about bringing a comic book character into the real world, it’s a view of what the real world can be like for someone with mental illness. Phoenix portrays a very accurate portrayal of what it can be like for someone with hidden illnesses, trying to live in the world of ‘normal’ people, who are either uneducated or simply ignorant to these issues.
Joaquin Phoenix portrays the titular role of Arthur Fleck, who later goes on to be known as Joker. His Oscar worthy performance brings us a disturbing yet empathetic portrayal of a man who is suffering, but takes his problems to an extreme that you hope no one would, but sadly this is how some people have dealt with their suffering. Not that it’s an excuse, just a portrayal of the lives people often choose to ignore.
Phoenix’s body transformation for this role adds to the characters disturbing nature, because Phoenix has become so malnurished, his body is almost skeletal in appearance. His ribs and spine protrude from his body, as if they’re trying to escape through his skin like a xenomorph baby from Alien (1979).
The scene from the trailer and poster, where we see Joker dancing on the stairs, feels very much, to me, like the ‘No Man’s Land’ scene in Wonder Woman (2017), by which I mean, it’s the moment in the film where the character reaches their full potential ready to bring in the final segments of the film where we truly see the character come to life.
Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that there are some great references to Batman, because whilst this film doesn’t need the Bat, Director Todd Phillips found an incredibly captivating way to involve Bruce Wayne and his parents. Thomas Wayne (portrayed by Brett Cullen) plays a fairly important role in the film, with his performance giving us a somewhat darker side to Bruce’s Father which you could definitely believe.
Other cast members include Robert De Niro, portraying a Comedy TV show host not too dissimilar to Jerry Lewis’ character in the 1982 film ‘The King Of Comedy’ which also starred Robert De Niro, but in the role of Rupert Pupkin who is a fan of Jerry Langford and his show, just like Arthur Fleck is a fan of De Niro’s show in Joker, the ‘Murray Franklin Show’.
Zazie Beetz Portrays the role of Sophie, a single mother who lives in the same building as Arthur, and a character Arthur seems to admire a lot, maybe even love, but all is not as it seems with their relationship.
I’m sure you’ve already seen the social media complaints about how this film portrays the Joker as a hero figure, but that is not true. This film is about a man with a villain. There are moments where you feel empathy for the character, but throughout most of the film you are as much disturbed by him as the other characters in the film. You feel uncomfortable watching him, you don’t want to feel sorry for him but you can’t help it.
Overall this film is incredible, I’d even go so far as to call it a masterpiece of cinema. Even upon multiple viewings, this film does not fall in in it’s quality or fail to keep in enthralled in it’s disturbing, yet masterfully crafted story.
To be critical of the film is difficult. My only issue, is that I wish we saw more anarchy caused by the Joker before the film is done BUT having said that I know that is not what this film is about so it’s not really a critique, more of a wishful thinking statement because I didn’t want this film to end.
If you think you know this film from the trailer, you are beyond mistaken.
This film gets a 5/5 from me. If I had more BCRD stamps of approval in my ratings it would still get them all, so I’m even going to throw in 5 stars because I can and that proves how much I love this film. Everything from Cast, to crew, to score and costume gets a big thumbs up from me. Go see this film asap!
Joker is out in Cinemas everywhere now!
You can even pre-order your copy on the Warner Bros. Website now as well! Visit the link below to pre-order your copy: