Joker is yet another example of how most DC characters succeed outside the DC Universe. Without taking the title of this movie in a literal sense, Joker is a disturbing film that analyzes both the effects of and our response to mental illness in our society today, as well as the corruption of government and the overall aristocracy.
The film follows the emotional turmoil of Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Fleck is a mentally unstable wannabe comedian who desperately longs for acceptance in the 1980’s Gotham City. He struggles financially to support himself and his mother by working as a clown mascot advertising “out of business” sales. Arthur gets his sign stolen by a bunch of kids leading him to chase them into an ally way resulting with Arthur getting brutally beaten. Everything that follows this experience chronicles his long and painful descent into madness.
I give Joaquin massive credit for his unique take on the iconic villain. His performance was overall electrifying and provocative to watch. However, his Joker was more shy, more defeated, lacking in clarity compared to the other jokers before him. I wouldn’t exactly call him a theatrical Joker. If Arthur Fleck was talented at theatrics, he would’ve become a comedian and not an impulsive cackling madman. I see a connection between Phoenix’s Joker to Heath Ledger’s in the sense that his schemes are more linked to acts of terrorism with a sense of humor than just deadly practical jokes. This is evident especially in the last scene, where Fleck is gloriously standing over his rioting fans partaking in a violent revolution he started.
Another aspect about Phoenix’s Joker that was different was his iconic laugh. Apparently, Fleck has a mental condition that causes him to laugh impulsively that doesn’t reflect on how he actually feels. While I like how this gives the character a certain unpredictability and a little humanity, it doesn’t exactly reflect well on the character’s archetype: someone who laughs to show pleasure in the acts of terror he is doing. Because Fleck has no control over his laughter, it is hard to point out exactly how he feels when he commits a crime. Therefore, it seems his laugh acts as more of a distraction than a defining quality to his character.
Overall, I think the film was exceptionally executed with brilliant performances and an excellent cast. While I believe Joker wasn’t perfect, I do see it as an Oscar-worthy piece of cinema. Whether if you are a DC or regular crime drama fan, this is one film this year you don’t want to miss.