I’m really digging DC’s current strategy of ditching the shared universe that Marvel made so famous and doing separate self-contained stories. Honestly, during the last couple of years, DC has been on fire but, with Joker, that fire becomes a supernova as this movie represents both a master class in writing, acting, and directing, but also one of the most effective social horror movies in years.
Joker is a movie based on… well, nothing. It’s an original movie with a comic book character that is not based on any comic book or previous movie and does the unthinkable of giving the Joker a definitive origin story — something blasphemous to long-time comic fans as the comic book Joker has always been a pulsating question mark for years.
However, before you get out your pitchforks and torches, this movie is probably the most non-comic booky comic book movie ever made. It’s got more in common with Taxi Driver than it does Batman. This is a long and premeditated decent into madness, a character study of a deeply damaged individual, beaten up by society and his own inner demons.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur, a mentally ill clown who dreams of being a stand up comic. He lives with his mother who seems to be suffering from mental issues of her own and, throughout the entire movie, civilization runs a steamroller over him over and over again until something simply snaps.
Now, some will look at this movie and say it’s a condemnation of Trump politics in the age of unbridled capitalism, some will say it’s a commentary on the welfare class and how they will devolve into clowns if they don’t get handouts they think they deserve, still others will say that it’s a study of the basic savagery and cruelty of the human race and what it does to the defenseless. Personally, I think that the brilliance of this movie is that it is none of those things and yet all of them as well… this is a movie that invites debate, encourages discussion, and demands interpretation even if those interpretations may seem crazy to everyone else.
Some might even say that Joker isn’t trying to say anything at all… it’s just about a guy having a bad week and getting beaten down by it. That’s correct too. I think they’re all correct.
Joaquin Phoenix carries this movie magnificently, portraying Arthur/Joker as a character to be pitied and someone to feel compassion for, even when he commits the most monstrously horrid crimes. You can see where the pain and the pressure has led him and, although you are repulsed by where he goes, you also understand and that’s probably the scariest thing about this film… you understand the Joker.
Needless to say, the Oscar buzz is well-earned. How cool would it be if two people won the Academy Award for playing the same comic book villain?
Not everyone will enjoy this movie. I foresee this being one divisive movie, especially for those who go in expecting a straight-up superhero movie… it’s not a superhero movie, it’s a psychological study and sociological horror. It is slow, it is methodical, it is calculating, it is cruel, and it is, in strange and hard to understand ways, kind of beautiful to see Arthur shed the last vestiges of his humanity and free himself to become the crown prince of crime.
In any case, Joker is a masterpiece and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees.