Quick disclaimer: all views are my own, there’s no affiliate links and I haven’t received any kind of payment for this post. I also don’t really have any idea what I’m talking about in regards to films.
In general, I’m not a huge superhero/villain film fan. Contraversial, I know, I’m not even really sure why but I just don’t really like them as a whole. There are some exceptions of course, namely THAT Batman trilogy we all know and love. Each film just got better and better, and I don’t know a single person who can dispute the talent of the late Heath Ledger. His portrayal of the Joker was phenomenal and honestly I never believed anyone could play the role better, I didn’t even bother to watch Suicide Squad. However, when I saw the trailer for this years Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix, I could tell this wasn’t a performance to be missed.
The film has had quite mixed reviews and honestly it did leave me feeling a little mixed up too. Phoenix is utterly incredible, I could never say better than Ledger of course, but certainly up there. They’re both spectacular in different ways: Ledger felt very much like a comic book villain, although I should make it clear that I’ve never picked up a DC comic in my life and I’m purely basing this on portrayals in films. Phoenix’s Joker on the other hand, is like a real life psychopath. The acting was so beliveable in fact, that it was almost uncomfortable, like that really is him and there’s no acting – I think I’d actually be a little scared if I was to ever meet the actor (by any odd chance). When I say uncomfortable though, it’s certainly not in a bad way, but is is almost quite scary.
We start the film with Arthur Fleck, struggling to simply exist in a very cruel world and very much abandoned by society. It’s very easy to feel sorry for him as we learn more and more about the character and his upbringing. Failing as a clown and a stand up comedian, caring for his deluded mother who also abused him as a child, beaten up and just generally trod on by life. He’s understandably very hurt and angry at the world. That is, until he kills for the first time and starts to see his life a comedy, not a tragedy.
“Smile and put on a happy face.”
The film becomes more brutal at this point and it’s harder to relate to Arthur, as he soon becomes simply a cold-blooded murderer, rather than a helpless victim of society. I will try not to discuss any particular scenes and give things away, but as Arthur’s transformation to The Joker evolves, things become more chilling. It all starts with a colleague giving Arthur a gun for “protection” (as you do…). You can’t help but wonder, if people weren’t so flippant about guns, if Arthur hadn’t been given one in the first place, how might this story be different? The simple answer is there’s be no story at all… And so, the juxtaposition to some very real life issues begin. Although the film is honestly beautiful and excellent in more ways than one, you can understand the mixed reviews and emotions.
“They don’t give a shit about people like you, Arthur. And they don’t give a shit about people like either.”
I’ll go back to the point I made of Arthur being abandoned by society here. The character is in desperate need of help with his mental health, however the funding stops so his counselling and medication simply stop too without a second thought. Sound familiar to any kind of stories we hear, almost daily? Maybe it’s just me that thinks it’s a bit of a touchy subject.
“Everybody is awful these days. It’s enough to make anyone crazy.”
As the film draws to an end, Gotham has descended in to chaos. The Joker has become something of a vigilante and the city has become overrun with people in clown masks. Riots ensue and again it’s rather unsettlingly familiar. I’m not going to delve in to any modern politics or anything, seeing as honestly I don’t know enough and at the end of the day, this is actually just a film. Perhaps I’ve just been reading too many fancy critic’s reviews and now I’m overthinking it.
“I had a bad day.”
Arthur has been chewed up, until he’s no longer himself anymore, then spat back out again. He’s now simply… The Joker, homicidal maniac and ultimate villian.
This film is not like any other origin story you may have seen, and apart from the very small links to the DC universe, this could be another one of those “based on true event” types. The Wayne family do feature heavily and have their own important role, but you could be forgiven for thinking that has nothing to do with the Batman story that’s to come, and is just the name of a family. It depends on how you watch it in my opinion.
All in all, the film is beautifully made, incredibly bold, just as it is dark and intense. It’s certainly not to be missed, based on Phoenix’s performance alone, and I’m sure there are many Oscars to be had.