He is quite easily considered one of the most iconic comic book villains from the DC universe, a human with no super powered abilities whatsoever, that can be a challenge to anyone because of his insanely devious mind. I love this character. He is one of my most favourite bad guys for many reasons but mostly because he usually makes me laugh, which is not always a trait associated with an evil megalomaniac. So, of course when he gets his very first solo movie, all about him, I want it to metaphorically blow my skirt up. I remained unbiased, because I am not the type of fan to defend a pile of crap just because it contains a favourite, I would rather see a character portrayed on the screen as he or she should be. So far, my favourite Joker must be Mark Hamill’s animated version from the cartoons and Arkham series of games, hands down. But, in terms of the big screen the award goes to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight.(When you make it to the toilet on time)
The Joker is such a difficult person to get right and it doesn’t help when there have been so many reboots of DC heroes and villains, so many animated shows and movies with different takes on how he should be. The DC universe has been falling much further behind the MCU in terms of quality movies, and with the added difficulty of having to find new actors for Batman and Superman (allegedly, I haven’t found anything concrete) after already releasing the Justice League movie I can see they would be under a lot of pressure to try and regain some traction with future releases. We have already had knockout hits with Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam, which means DC and Warner Bros. can exceed our expectations. The question is have they done justice to the first villain only movie of this generation?(The face you make when your boss tells a shit joke)
Yes and no. I enjoyed the movie, no doubt, and will happily watch it again later. Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal throughout the entire 122 minutes of run time, and I am very happy to consider him the best part of this movie. I never considered him for the role though, always hoping Willem Dafoe would take the mantle, thinking he would play an insane baddie rather well for obvious reasons (Green Goblin).(Tell me he wouldn’t have been awesome!)
But I was not dismayed when hearing Joaquin would be the next in a long line of Clown Princes of Crime. This take on it is very different to what we are used to and appears to be grounded in reality, taking heed of real issues surrounding mental health and using that as the catalyst for his downfall rather than the usual chemical accident storyline. Arthur Fleck is a clown by trade, hired out for promotional activities and parties etc. in order to draw attention and entertain, yet he feels like his entire life has been ignored by everyone around him, feeling like he never truly existed. He lived in a small apartment in Gotham, with his elderly mother, amongst the other poor people in society, surrounded by crime, large rubbish bags and people that treated him like a freak. He suffers from some unknown mental health issues but carries on with his life, always trying to smile and bring laughter into the world. This movie follows Arthur as he quickly descends into the abyss that will forever change how he outwardly expresses himself. He has suffered multiple traumatic experiences throughout his life and tries to imagine himself in different scenarios, always putting himself in a better place before returning to how things really are.(“Pennywise…is that you?”)
I thought this movie was a good reminder about the dangers of ignoring people that struggle with their everyday lives, that mental health issues are not something that can be swept under the carpet. Gotham is rife with discontent between the everyday man and woman, and the corporate elite, and one day it becomes too much for the already struggling Arthur. After suffering from a humiliating loss of his job Arthur is beset upon by some wall street-style thugs due to one of his conditions (makes more sense when you see it), which results in him taking his first step over the line. Moving on from this shows the slow, oh so slow, transition from what seems like a sweet and troubled man to a ruthless anarchist. What leaves me a little perplexed is why none of this happened sooner. Arthur has gone through a very difficult life so I don’t understand why he has not snapped by now. He has had every opportunity after something, which I can’t spoil, is revealed after reading a letter his mother has sent to Thomas Wayne, a man currently running for Mayor, which begins to set things in motion. She has sent a letter almost every day for 30 years and at any time he could have read one.(Boris Johnson makes the front page again)
As a result of the events that have occurred between Arthur and those aforementioned rich dudes it inspired other people to fight back against the more successful caste within Gotham, and because the only suspect in the ordeal was a clown they decided to adopt that visage to form some sort of unity against the tyranny of wealthy folk. As more begins to transpire we see some more of the odd and erratic behaviour of Arthur as he begins to embrace his perspective, accepting the darkness within him and deciding to act on his impulses. Unfortunately, it’s not until the last 20 minutes or so that we begin to get a glimpse of the real Joker. What the trailers succeed in showing is a very brief instance where he wears a colourful suit, a face full of make-up and has a good ol’ laugh, but this only happens near the end. I get that this is meant to show how the Joker started off, but what we missed out on was actually seeing more of the Joker getting up to his shenanigans and being the Joker, appearing too late in the movie. What worries me about this is the rate in which DC revamps their characters, so we might never get a chance to see Joaquin play this part to the fullest, having him interact with Batman and committing crimes and seeing him become a long standing version that may be talked about for years to come. I feel like this could have benefited from removing some of the scenes in which he suffers abuse, which could have been shortened to a montage of frightening memories, and we could have seen the Joker in all of his glory.(Belfast girls before heading out to Limelight)
Now, I don’t mean to bash the movie. The cast were incredible, the music fit the tone really well and it was hard not to see why Arthur became a cold-hearted villain. In fact, I found myself sympathising with him, almost coming to an understanding with his actions. My favourite scene happened when he found out about his own past, something he didn’t know about himself, which develops into the biggest turning point of the rest of the movie. I may love the Joker, but I never wanted to feel sorry for him. I was surprised when I felt that he was justified in some small way for each criminal act, every time he hit back against those that casually kicked him over the edge. I hated the assholes that supposedly looked down on the “clowns” just for existing, and I wanted Arthur to get them back. I couldn’t help but notice the political undertones that were casually cropping up, the digs against rich people, blamed for the problems Gotham is facing. I try to stay ignorant of any political message placed into any of my leisure activities, because I prefer to be entertained and not told what is good and what is bad, to escape from reality. I will say that this movie does emphasise the necessity to treat mental health seriously and with great care, because despite the smiles we put on our faces, we never truly know what goes on inside the world’s greatest prison, the mind. He just wanted to be a part of the world, but it pushed him back.(Of course sometimes the message was less subliminal…)
All in all, this was not a bad movie; it was actually a very good watch. It did take too long to hit its stride and dragged out the creation of the titular character until the climax of the movie. Those last moments were worth the wait and if DC decide to bring this Joker into any future movies, I will be very excited to see him in all of his potential glory. Joaquin was definitely the star of the show and thanks to his performance I never took my eyes off the screen. I kept them there waiting for something to happen, waiting for the Joker to appear and when he did, I wasn’t disappointed. Other origin stories have the hero appear at least midway through, so that they may face their rival and overcome the odds. The mould is certainly broken here, and it would be too early to bring in a “hero” to face against the Joker, unless he is meant to lose in his own movie. I’m glad it isn’t just a rehashed formula but I wanted to see more Joker, cracking one liners and creating chaos. Joaquin was the perfect manic and everything from his little ticks, to the way he smiles, and randomly dancing was enough to convince me that he is just right for this role. I am hopeful that this will be the start of a unique adaption, and that it won’t just end up as another one-off to be discarded. I want people to go and see the movie and come up with their own opinions. Go in with no expectations, because it is most likely not the movie you would expect to see, but it is a movie to be enjoyed.