Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro and is directed by Todd Phillips. One of the most anticipated movies of the year has finally arrived, along with all its controversy, and proves to be a stunningly real and unique take on the famous Comic book villain.
Joker, whilst belonging to the Comic book genre, is nowhere near your typical Marvel or DC outing. Instead, Joker opts for a far more realistic and grounded portrayal of the Batman villain showing him as a down beaten loner type character struggling to get by in Gotham city. Joaquin Phoenix plays the character of Arthur/Joker and gives an Oscar-worthy performance as he puts his spin on a character that has already been played to perfection by actors such as Nicholson or Ledger, even going as far as to add a new layer to the Joker’s demented laugh. What Phoenix can do with the role is fantastic as he plays both a character that the audience sympathises with but ultimately comes to hate as he spirals into insanity and transforms into the Joker.
Whilst Phoenix’s performance is the standout, the film is very well crafted. Director Todd Phillips, most known for his work on the Hangover franchise, pays homage and recreates a style of filmmaking predominantly seen in the late 70s and early 80s in films such as Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. Both films are heavily referenced here with Phillips going on record to say that Joker is heavily inspired by Martin Scorsese’s work. Phillips is also able to allude to themes of Mental Health regarding the main character, as well as the divide between social classes through the character of Thomas Wayne and the impact Joker has on Gotham. These themes are part of the reason the film has gathered so much discussion and controversy.
The bulk of the controversy surrounding Joker stems from the use of violence in the film and how media violence can supposedly incite real-life violence. Whilst the film’s use of violence is shocking and dark, which can be expected from such a complex character-led film. With regards to the arguments surrounding media violence reflecting in the real world, this has been raging on for years now and still I believe that filmmakers should not be held accountable for producing, challenging, and having dark subject matter in their films.
Overall, Joker is a welcome addition to the oversaturated Comic Book genre. Phoenix’s outstanding performance pays homage to the great character study films of the 70s and 80s whilst also feeling like a fresh take on the Clown Prince of crime’s origin story.
Keep an eye for this one come awards season!