The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
So in a world where we get the same generic superhero origin movie, over and over, expecting something different to wow us, it would seem that a movie like Joker would be the most sane thing we could experience. A movie that fights to ask a moral question, while presenting a profile on an individual that is just as likely to be sitting in the theater themselves, as well as breaking down the same as the character on screen, all included in a decisive character that belongs on the pages of a comic book. This movie cut hard at the realism that influences the comics that bore the character in the first place.
Joker is an interesting movie. I can’t say I can’t say I loved it, but I can’t say anything bad about it, really. Cinematically, it’s captivating, the acting from Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely flawless, and it helps define DC’s growing corner of the blockbuster industry.
Arthur Fleck is a down-on-his-luck guy who takes care of his mother, works to make people happy and can’t seem to connect with anyone. When he loses his job and ends up letting loose for the first time, he kills three young bankers who work for Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s old man). This set off a revolution in the city of Gotham, with the poor pushing to change the status quo of the rich on top. This happens mostly in the background of the movie, while we focus on Arthur. He deals with understanding himself in his psychosis more, a new girlfriend, the truth about his mother, father and past,as well as working on his comedy routine.
This all culminates in a final act that leaves you wondering where the line between reality and fantasy stands, and which side Arthur and the audience see it all from.
This story takes a few different ideas from the comics books and mashes them into something like a biopic film about the creation of a serial killer. We push past the pages of the Joker in comic form, understanding and sometimes seeing his chaos and murderous deeds. But then we move on to the Batman, and other villains, and the reality of Joker’s existence fills into background, motivation, plot.
This movie takes human life, and creates much more depth and weight to every person involved. The Joker kills in this, but it’s not so that Batman can catch him and put him in jail. The Joker kills because apathy leads to descent into darkness. He kills because it’s the only time he knows that he even exists, and because he can. The lives that are lost are felt with a pitted stomach and a question of, is this the line that he had to cross, or will there be more before he finally accepts who he really is, a villain?
To be fair, this movie does take its time. Only the last 15 minutes of the film are what I expected for the majority of it. So there is a bit of time where you’re asking yourself, “When will it get good?” “When are we going to see Arthur transform?” “When will he start to cackle at his own humorless and dark jokes?” You better get comfy cause it’ll be a while. Sure, you get small appetizers along the way, but if you’re going to this movie to see “The Joker” in all his pomp and frill, you will walk away disappointed.
This is a deep and, on many levels, disturbing movie. But if you’re a fan of what comic books really try to achieve with storytelling, then I think you’ll enjoy this film. If, on the other hand, you’re going just to see Batman to bash in another villain’s face, well. I guess the joke’s on you.
Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.