“Joker” Review: Why So Serious?
October 22, 2019
The Joker is one of the most popular supervillains in media, if not characters in general. Batman’s arch nemesis and most iconic foe, he’s appeared in several films with the Dark Knight, and now one without him. The film has been met with both praise and scorn from critics and audiences and is almost destined to be a socially and politically controversial film. After seeing the trailers, I was quite excited for this movie, and going in, I thought I would like it a lot. So, did it live up to my expectations?
Well, no. Not really. By all intents and purposes, Todd Phillips’s “Joker” is a good movie, maybe even a great movie. But especially coming from the guy who directed “The Hangover,” a ridiculous, over-the top, silly film, “Joker” is among one of the most depressing and punishingly bleak films I’ve seen in my life. That’s not to say there isn’t still quite a bit to appreciate, and I would still recommend it to certain audiences, but I’d be lying if I said it was a film I have much of an interest in seeing again.
First, we should look at the positive aspects of this film. As expected, Joaquin Phoenix is very, very good. Is he Heath Ledger? No. But then again, who is? In comparison to a lot of other Jokers, his performance is often somewhat more restrained, intentionally awkward, and uncomfortable, which is a contrast to most actors who play the Joker as a swaggering, psychotic, but nonetheless confident madman. In addition, the film looks gorgeous, paying homage to 1970’s Scorcese films like “Taxi Driver,” with the 70’s Warner Brothers logo even appearing in the introduction. Phillip’s use of a green, cloudy, and murky color scheme somehow makes the film look beautiful and unique. Top that off with solid performances across the board (especially from Robert DeNiro playing a sleazy talk show host), a dark and compelling origin story, and a surprisingly solid soundtrack, and you should have a pretty great film on your hands. So why don’t you?
For the most part, it comes down to the tone. This film is incredibly dark, with several moments, particularly one at the end, that are deeply uncomfortable and downright hard to watch. And while I can respect that, I won’t pretend it’s pleasant.
And finally there’s the controversy: namely, the idea that portraying a story about a man from the underclass being screwed over by society and taking revenge in a violent form may appeal to and even help inspire mass shooters which have been all over the news, mostly in the United States, and that it may be culturally inappropriate to make a film like this right now. And honestly, I think that the response may be a slight overreaction. Regardless, Phillips’s “Joker” is a very good movie with a lot of strong aspects to it. It’s just not a film for everybody. If you’re a comic book fan, a Batman fan, or you just like the “Joker” in general, then go see it, you’ll enjoy it. If you like Scorcese and have more stomach for dark themes, check it out. Otherwise. you may want to stay away. Final Score: 6/10.