Plot: A gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society – Joker.
Director: Todd Philips
Release Date: October 2019
The joker may well be Batman’s biggest nemesis, but this most definitely doesn’t feel like a comic book movie, even if it does take a stab at explaining his origin and has a few other DC characters pop up along the way. Instead, this is a film about a man whose last thread of sanity is broken because of a combination of factors, think Nightcrawler rather than Justice League and you’ll be closer to the mark.
Everyone knows how good Joaquin Phoenix can be but in Joker he delivers a powerhouse performance as the lead, stealing every scene that he features in, which is every scene in the film, easily eclipsing Leto’s version in Suicide Squad and arguably Ledgers portrayal also, something that I never thought would be possible.
In the past the character has usually been just a criminal mastermind with a screw loose, Phoenix achieves something quite frankly amazing with the character. He makes you feel sorry for The Joker. With the audience rooting for him as the underdog, right until his last thread of sanity is broken. Or more precisely, the moment Arthur Fleck dies and is replaced by the Joker we all know.
As good as Phoenix is, he can’t take all the credit, Todd Phillips’ does a superb job transporting you to a gritty and realistic 1970s Gotham City. Given his previous films were mostly sex comedies. I found the way he chose to tell this story surprising and a breath of fresh air for a genre that feels a little stale, especially in the case of Marvel films.
My only issue with the film is something that might well have been done deliberately because of the time it was set in or the characters slide from knowing right from wrong, but I couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable when a Gary Glitter song appeared on the soundtrack. I know it’s minor, but he is a convicted paedophile after all.
This film blew away all my expectations for it and although I know that this was made as a one-off, I would love to see more films in this particular cinematic universe, taking a more realistic look at what causes a person to fall into criminality or to rise up into heroism.