“Joker” is a Near Comic Book Film Masterpiece

Warner Bros. releases the highly anticipated and controversial “Joker”


Courtesy of Joker Movie Twitter

Warner Bros. press released image.

Joshua Letona, Copy Editor

A string of disappointments made Warner Bros. change its strategy for a shared DC film universe. Now, the studio is fulfilling its promise of director driven films by releasing “Joker,” an R-rated, complete standalone origin story for the iconic DC villain. 

Set in the 1980s, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a clown for hire with a mental illness that causes him to laugh uncontrollably. Between taking care of his mother and trying to become a stand-up comic, Arthur has his one bad day that leads him down the dark path to become the clown prince of crime.

Phoenix’s performance is cinema’s best incarnation of the Joker to date. There are few performers who would plunge themselves so deep into this role. The way he crafts his mannerisms can teeter on sympathetic and disturbing, but also the physical transformation the actor undertook contributes deeply to the character.

Arthur Fleck can become a fully realized character unlike previous incarnations in the past that seemed like caricatures or just ideas.

There is never a scene without Arthur on screen, which allows the audience to see this version of Gotham through his eyes. The city has become divided by the rich and poor, which adds real-world commentary on today’s society. How much of that will affect audience members will, ultimately, depend on what they bring with them into the theater. “Joker” explores how society treats those who are mentally ill and considered lower class.

The film clearly has influences from Martin Scorsese films like “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy,” but “Joker” feels more like this generation’s “Fight Club.” The themes in both films have sparked controversy and can be interpreted in many ways.

Philips clearly wanted to make a film that would provoke audiences into asking questions without providing clear cut answers. It’s up to you to decide what the film and its ending mean on your ride home.

The only thing that holds the film back is its larger connections to the Batman mythos, which serve more as a distraction. Arthur’s journey to become the Joker is compelling all on its own, and the climax will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Warner Bros. has swung for the fences with “Joker” as Phoenix’s performance and Phillip’s direction take the comic book genre into a new territory. Not to forget, the cinematography and music score is hauntingly beautiful.

“Joker” is without a doubt one of the best films this year. At the same time, the film will certainly become a topic of debate, but that’s just what makes great cinema.