‘Joker’ movie review

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Kenny Eckstein-Schoemann

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Send in the clowns because Joker is in town! Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the clown prince of crime, this movie is a dark retelling of one of comics greatest villains. With all the hype surrounding it, it still begs the following questions: Has DC landed another cinematic hit? Will we see Joaquin Phoenix and Jared Leto fight over who is the better Joker in the future? Well we’re here to answer all that and more so put on your happy faces as we take a dive into one of this years most anticipated films.

The movie takes place in 1981 and centers on Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill failed stand up comedian disregarded by society in Gotham. Fleck’s constant abuse in life eventually causes him to go insane and become a colorful, psychopathic clown who leads a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City.

It’s very clear from the get go that this movie delivers a Joker very different from any version we’ve seen before. The fact that the film stars the villain as the sole protagonist, hardly has any connections to the comics, and features no Batman in it will have some fans scratching their heads. 

The film’s main focus is on this character and his descent into insanity. The Joker’s origin is something that has been explored time and time again in the comics, but is overall kept in mystery. Keeping that in mind while seeing the film we overall loved this movie. The biggest standout in this film is easily Joaquin Phoenix. His performance is both mesmerizing and haunting. This actor has been leaving a trail of great performances left and right in his career and he still manages to top his already high bar. The actor alone makes this film Oscar worthy. It definitely ranks alongside the iconic performance of Heath Ledger. 

The story leans heavily on the lines of a character study about an individual whose had a rotten life. You do feel sympathy for him based on his mental illness and the abuse he endures, but at the same time you’re afraid of the darkness brewing behind the smile on his face. It is a very realistic portrayal of how someone in real life could become like the Joker. You understand why this character would choose a life of crime because life keeps raining down on him. Without giving anything away, there’s moments in the film where the Joker lives a moment and sees it one way but is later revealed to be his own imagination and all in his head. That’s a brilliant idea. Phillips and Phoenix take this story and truly make it their own grisly entity. 

The film is also superbly well shot, the angles and color palette of every scene gives you an unnerving sense of dread. The musical score is especially chilling making the main lead seem all the more unhinged as the film continues. It feels less like a comic book film and more like a dramatic cautionary tale. The film takes huge inspiration from Martin Scorsese’s films, namely Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. This goes down to the point of having Robert de Niro as a comedic talk show host parodying the latter film. This leads into the one criticism we have with this film is that it feels a lot like those movies. There are so many shots, visuals, and plot details taken from those films that appear in this. We’re not saying this is copying those films since this is very much its own thing. It’s just when watching this you can’t ignore the fact that it’s inspired by those films.

We also understand it can be very challenging to take a villain and make him the protagonist. We’re so used to seeing the Joker clash against Batman. But we think what makes this film so unique is that it asks questions that make us wonder what role do we play in creating evil. The fact that a film like this succeeded on that front is astounding. 

There has been concern whether or not this film condones violence, or if it sides with people who commit violent acts. While these are valid concerns, the problem we have with it is that we’re talking about the Joker character. He’s a loud, psychopathic, murderous clown. What did people expect him to do? Smash pies in everyone’s faces? In fact, the violence in this movie isn’t nearly as graphic as films like John Wick or Deadpool. It’s just a darker story. Seeing a character commit violent acts has been in films for years. We even have movies and documentaries that explore historical killers in the media because people are fascinated by this subject. Do we think it’s telling people to condone violence? No, of course not. It’s just depicting it as a cautionary tale of what might happen if someone goes over the edge.

Overall, we really enjoyed this one. We dare even say we prefer this over a good portion of comic book films in general. This is probably the best Joker origin story we’ll get on screen. It’s different, it takes a lot of risks, and is sure to make you smile on the first viewing!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Sails

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