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Joker, The Movie

Joker, Movie review

I’m not well-versed in the comic book lore or history of Joker. I’m not a huge Batman fan, either. I don’t dislike either of them. I’ve just never spent time with the comics. I did watch every episode of Adam West’s Batman show growing up and I’ve seen the Christian Bale movies, which I loved.

That said, I always find The Joker a compelling character in the movies—especially the darker version of him. So, the new movie, released last Friday and setting box office records, looked interesting to me.

Before I went I decided to check Fandango, where I was shocked to learn that over 90% of fans liked the movie. I thought the die-hard fans would be against it seeing how it may or may not have deviated from the comic books (from everything I’ve read). It seems Joker’s origin story isn’t clear in the comics. But die-hard fans don’t normally like their heroes or villains to be re-imagined, especially one as iconic as Joker. So, I was excited because I thought the movie might be good enough to allow serious fans to suspend their views, based upon the user reviews, and just enjoy it for what it is—one man’s view of the Joker origin story.

Another reason I was excited is that I find DC Comics movie translations to be short on grit and character angst, something I think Marvel generally does better, though that’s up for debate. For me the movies, like great books, are always about the characters, not the action. The same is true of my own novels. They are character-driven, even the thrillers. Joker previews looked different, more like what I wanted.

The final thing that made the movie more compelling for me was that Joker is a one-off tale, no other movies to complete the story. I’m tired of several things with all of the comic book movies. One is the multi-movie format. I’m just worn out by them. Two, is the fact that all superhero movies build to an end where the hero has to do something special to save the world. I get it—they’re superheroes. It’s what they do. But I find stories told on a smaller scale about the characters and the things close to them far more rewarding.

I’ve wondered why Joker is such a compelling character to so many people and realized something I hadn’t considered before: Joker is one of the few villains—horror stories aside—who is actually a hero. The horror movies have Freddy Krueger, Jason, Dracula and others, all legends in their own right. But there aren’t many other villains who are the movie. Loki and Hannibal Lecter come to mind, or maybe Patrick Bateman of American Psycho—played by Christian Bale—but not much else.

Joker has a special place among villains. People like him, or are at least attracted to him.


So, what of the movie? It was intense and hard to watch at times. Those were both good and bad points regarding it. I like being made to feel uncomfortable at times. Joker did that. It was awkward and cringe-worthy and sometimes embarrassing. But overall I found it emotionally level throughout its two hours, not a good thing, and the only real criticism I have. Everything was so charged and unforgiving that the shocking scenes—and the times when I should have been upset, appalled or emotionally stunned in some other way—were glossed over by the total shock at watching Arthur Fleck in scene after scene devolve into his special lunacy because of his circumstances. The few quiet and near normal moments in the film were the day dreams of a crazy man and not enough to pull back from the crush of his life. And several times I wanted Arthur Fleck to stand up and fight for himself, but not in the way it happened, which is okay. I like being surprised.

Joaquin Phoenix was absolutely brilliant—Oscar-worthy brilliant. I kept thinking he had to have put everything on the line as an artist every day he was filming. He was absorbing, as were the set pieces. The music was haunting and added an extra dimension to his performance and the other visuals.

The ending is controversial to some, especially living in the United States of Mass Murder-semi-automatic-gun-toting—but-my-rights!—Idiocy. But it’s the Joker. He was ALWAYS going to kill somebody in an absolutely horrible manner.

At the end of the movie—with the resplendent Joker dancing down the steps—I finally felt at ease. That was the Joker I knew. I think on some level he is easier to accept in his final form because he is the fully formed comic book villain we all know. The pitiful Arthur Fleck who hadn’t yet become Joker was painful to watch and part of that might have been due to the fact that for much of the movie I was rooting for him, hoping he would do something to change his life, even though he was doomed to become Joker.

I thought the movie was good, and for all the right reasons. I understand not everyone is going to feel the same. But it was gritty and dark and it was about the character. Joker was always going to be dark, anyone going to the theater had to expect that. Despite the fact it was a DC comic film, the story was small and self-contained and no one had to save the world, or the galaxy, or the universe at the end. It was a character study of an odd and difficult villain, beautifully acted though sometimes challenging to watch. That suited me just fine.

in category Life

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Joker, The Joker, DC Comics, Comic, Movies