Simply put, Joker is a great film. Better yet, it’s a better comic book adaptation. Even better than all of those things, I dare say it’s the best DC film since The Dark Knight (2008). I’m sorry to have to break it to all two of you that liked Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), but it’s true. Joker is the equivalent to Marvel’s Rated R film Logan (2017). This is a gritty, dark, disturbing, and wonderful look at one of the most infamous comic book villains.
All DCEU bashing aside, Director Todd Philips was able to reinvent the classic Batman nemesis into something that serves as a cautionary tale, but also creates an interesting character story. As the title suggests, this film centers around the origin of Joker. Audiences watch as the character of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is slowly degraded and humiliated by society until that smile he tries to keep on his face turns into a snarl.
I say that this is a cautionary tale simply because, unlike most comic book adaptations, this one could actually become reality. Social Services, local government, his family, and the rest of humanity failed Arthur Fleck which turns him into the Joker. Unlike other films in its genre, there isn’t a radioactive spider or magical ring from outer space that creates the protagonist. It’s simply the way Fleck is treated that turns him into the crown prince of crime. The moral of the story is: be kind to your fellow man.
The highlight of the film is the acting performance by Joaquin Phoenix. From the odd dancing and the shots of his gaunt rib cage to the ill sounding laughter, Phoenix will definitely go down as one of the best Jokers in film history. One of the quirks that the character portrays is an uncontrollable laugh that displays itself during moments of intense awkwardness or stress.
The supporting cast is quite remarkable as well. Robert De Niro plays Murray Franklin, a late-night show host that is the focus of Fleck’s comedic career. Zazie Beetz plays Sophie, Fleck’s love interest. Frances Conroy, who many will remember from American Horror Story, plays Penny Fleck, Arthur’s sickly mother.
The thing that sets Joker apart from the rest of the DC superhero films is that this is a standalone story, not linked to the other films in the DC Extended Universe. Having said that, expect to see a young Bruce Wayne. As stated before, Batman doesn’t appear in the film nor is there a hint of an antagonist other than those that are the target of Joker’s ire.
If you’re a fan of comic book villains, Joker is an interesting origin story that will keep you wondering if you should be rooting for Fleck or hoping the police bring him down before the credits roll. I will caution anyone that wants to go see it, this is a Rated R film for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language, and brief sexual images. This is not a film to take your children to. Don’t think that just because this a character in the Batman universe that this is a safe, child friendly film.