The concept of superheroes continues to be captivating in the world of pop culture. The idea of heroes fighting crime is one that has been told many times in a variety of ways. However heroes are only as good as the villains they face, and in the case of Batman (while the Dark Knight has many foes) the one rogue that truly defines him is none other than the Joker. For years the Clown Prince of Crimes has been an iconic character in not just comic books but other mediums such as film as the Joker has been depicted five different times on the silver screen. With the superhero genre continuing to thrive, it was only a matter of time that this notorious villain would receive his very own own movie; and that movie has at last come to theaters in the form of Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker is a unique take on both the character and the Batman mythos as this standalone film creates its origin story for the sadistic clown. With cinematic universes playing such a major role for comic book movies these days, it can be difficult for a movie such as this one to stand out; and there is also the obstacle of interpreting Joker correctly to deal with. However what transpired was not just a movie that did the character justice, but shook the very foundation of comic book and superhero movies alike.
The story centers on Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix): a socially awkward man who wishes to be a comedian. After a series of unfortunate events, and one bad day, Arthur descends into madness and eventually becomes the persona known as Joker. The plot of Joker was no laughing matter as its character driven nature was as captivating as its compelling themes. The tale of Arthur Fleck is one full of inquiries as it raises the question just what would it take to drive a character like this crazy. The answer ends up being a story with twists and turns, and not once does this plot ever falter from being interesting. While Arthur’s transformation into Joker took longer than I expected, it certainly was effective as it paralleled the concept of superhero origins in a twisted fashion. The plot may not be authentic to the Batman mythos but it managed to live up to the source material by keeping true to the fundamentals of the lore. When it came down to it this plot was a twisted tale that did not go as I anticipated, but I suppose I should have expected nothing less from a story about the Joker.
There have been many interpretations of Joker and each tends to bring their own spin on the character and this movie was no different. In the case of Arthur Fleck the character’s decent into villainy was grounded and his transformation into the Joker was remarkably subtle but very much effective. The film’s take on Joker was indeed a character study as Arthur’s psyche was indeed a puzzle, but not to the point where the character came off as nonsensical. To say that Joaquin Phoenix shined as Joker would be an understatement as the actor had the performance of a lifetime. Phoenix’s performance was a stellar blend as he brought a sensible personality to Arthur while bringing the right charisma for Joker. When it came to the rest of the cast, while they may not have been as prominent as the star character, each member had something to offer the movie. The likes of Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy) and Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) were strong additions as their direction was not as cut and dry as it appeared to be. Along with them was the character Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz) who, while there was little to her, worked well with Arthur by giving him a semblance of a normal life. While it may not have been the most standout of ensembles, the cast of Joker was formidable as its strong lead and good supporting characters was fitting for a film such as this one.
While action tends to be a highlight for many superhero movies, Joker missed the memo on this aspect. True the movie has a sense of violence to it but these moments are far and between each other as well as subtle in their execution; although that is not to say that these sequences were ineffective. On the contrary the subtle nature behind the action was appropriate by working with the movie’s gritty direction. The cinematography was truly a marvel. The work by Lawrence Sher really caught the nature of the character by using an array of techniques with the camera; and it also captured the film’s setting splendidly as it truly looked like it took in the 80’s. Equally as impressive was the score by Hildur Guonadottir. The music was breathtaking as it captured the psychological nature behind the film, and simply stood out with its unique compositions.
In the age of superheroes, comic books and cinematic universes, Joker truly stands out from the rest. The movie brings unique take on the character, as well as his story, while remaining true to the aspects that have made the villain so iconic. Truth be told the aspects of this movie are practically endless as each layer can lead to a completely different analyzation, and that is a unique feat for any movie to accomplish. Needless to say, I take my hat off to Joker as it is truly one of a kind and among the best to grace the silver screen in quite some time.