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Movie Review: Joker (2019) *Spoiler Section*

From the moment I saw the first teaser trailer for Joker I was interested to see yet another take on, arguably, Batman's most famous villain.

It's not a movie that I ever thought we needed but I'm sure glad it exists despite it giving the Joker an unnecessary origin story. However, if the Joker was to have a definitive origin story, this one is the one I would lean towards.

Arthur Fleck is a working clown for hire and an aspiring stand up comedian.  A series of unfortunate events sets this one time dreamer down a darker path that leads to him becoming the Joker.

Much has been made of this film's influences, specifically movies like Taxi and The King of Comedy. As a source of inspiration, going outside of comic books, has really made for a more believable and less fantastical story. Some critics say it references these movies too closely but if so, I personally think that helps a lot to keep the film grounded.

As everything unwinds nothing is too far fetched beyond what Arthur is, a man suffering from depression (and probably more mental conditions), and quite a bit of bad luck in a city that is descending into chaos.

Joaquin Phoenix gives us a Joker that is most like Heath Ledger's but not nearly as calculated. There's definitely hints and nods to other incarnations but ultimately this version feels quite fresh and very much what the Joker is about.

I knew this would be a potentially violent film with a character that may be unlikable. I was actually relieved that, although there are a couple of very confronting violent moments, they have genuine purpose. While I wouldn't say Arthur is particularly likeable once he starts to descend into Joker you can certainly feel for him and his reasoning. You may have never responded to bad situations as Arthur does, but you've at least thought about it momentarily.

If WB were to keep up this standard of storytelling Joker is actually a great launching point movie for that darker, more serious tone for the DCEU, that didn't quite pan out as they hoped with Zac Schneider's vision.  I'm at least quietly hoping Joaquin will get to reprise his Joker in a future film. Maybe a few years older and with more of a sense of his own purpose.

I enjoyed this take on the character and I'm very glad it didn't descend into a cheesy supervillain story with some kind of face off with a hero at the end. Everything seemed very grounded and well thought through.

Definitely a film worth your time, even if you're not particularly a comic book movie fan. It's an interesting character study with lots to say about people who feel invisible and how a supposedly caring society can still fail them.

Spoiler Section


Be warned there are spoilers ahead. Don't read further if you haven't seen the movie. I just wanted to mention a few thoughts on these aspects of the film.

I do appreciate that this film acknowledges a spiraling into chaos Gotham city, and its attempt to link Joker to the Wayne family.

Ultimately I'm glad the links don't appear to add up, and was kind of impressed that Arthur was adopted by his mother. Which means there's still an origin story for Joker that we don't really know. He may not be related to the Waynes but he could be related to anyone, if a writer wanted to explore whose kid he actually is.

My only mild disappointment with the film is I didn't need to see yet another version of Bruce Wayne's parents getting shot in crime alley. It could have hinted at it, and that would've been enough for those familiar with the origin of Batman (is there anyone watching this kind of film that isn't at this point?).

As I said earlier this film is actually a good launch point for a version of the wider DCEU. I think if WB were to do that it might be better to limit it to a Batman extended universe, maybe introducing other DC Superheroes as their own Franchises grow. Kind of like Chris Nolan said from the beginning with his Batman films.

Right now Joker shows that a good character with a strong story built around them is better than flashy special effects driven blockbusters. Especially if WB really want to embrace the more realistic, darker comic book movie takes that they keep shooting for.

Comments

  1. Great job David. Your review of this movie is pretty much what I have heard other reviewers, that I respect, say about it. Somehow the liberal media over here is comparing it to Trump but I just don't see that at all. I guess I on;y have one option left and that is to go and see it for myself. I love any movie that is written and presented well so I think I will not be disappointed. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. It's one of those movies that can be interpreted in many different ways. Having seen it, I can see how it could be an analogy for the Trump administration, but I wouldn't say that's a strong theme of the movie. It's less about politics and more about society failing the disenfranchised... and not necessarily on purpose either. Just the way society tends to work and how easy it is for someone to fall through the cracks.

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