by Ben Porter
“Joker” by Todd Phillips is a unique look into one of the most iconic comic book villains of all time. Joaquin Phoenix takes on the role of The Joker, who is usually a one-dimensional “villain-of-the-week” type character, and twists him into one of the most developed characters in superhero cinema history. This movie follows Arthur Fleck, a man cast out by society, as he descends into madness in the cold, dark, and cruel streets of Gotham City.
Throughout the entire movie, Arthur is suffering from a myriad of mental disorders, one of which being Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA), which can cause uncontrollable laughing. Ironically, the only job he could find is a clown, who takes odd jobs, like sign-spinning, or dancing at children’s hospitals. After a long day of being stripped of his humanity by the cruel citizens of Gotham, he must take care of his elderly mother, who also suffers from mental illness. After getting assaulted on the subway due to his condition, Arthur Fleck finally snaps, and sets up a chain of events no one in Gotham saw coming.
Phoenix’s portrayal really hammers in the point that this is frighteningly realistic. It is a unique portrayal, especially coming from the superhero genre. I seemed to feel a bizarre sympathy for Arthur. He’s clearly a “bad guy”, but the way he was treated was absolutely abhorrent. The climax of the movie, where the hero usually rises up and defeats his enemies, was twisted into many people, innocent or not, “Getting what they deserve”, to quote The Joker himself.
I really enjoyed seeing many iconic moments in the Batman universe told from The Joker’s perspective. Watching Batman’s parents meet their end was hard to watch, but the unique spin on the event was very interesting . One difference I enjoyed was seeing the Waynes be portrayed as bad people. In every other iteration of Batman, his parents were saints among the “criminal scum” on the streets of Gotham. In this movie, Thomas Wayne (Batman’s father) was an elitist and unlikeable character. He mistreated everyone around him. We don’t see much of Bruce, because he is only a child at this point. I’ve always been a fan of popular stories from a different perspective, and this is a textbook example of how to do it perfectly.
Disregarding the stellar story, the atmosphere Phillips and Phoenix creates was so intensely uncomfortable, yet very enjoyable. I was uncomfortable and disgusted the entire movie, but that was the point. To truly sympathise with Arthur Fleck, you must see this story from his perspective, which is not a glamorous one. They also use music to hemp support many dramatic points throughout the movie, which is very effective
I definitely enjoyed the movie. The story, the atmosphere, the music, the visuals, the dialog, and many more things combine to make a very great movie. Taking into account all of these spectacular elements, I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys an experience at the movie theater, even if superhero movies aren’t your favorite.