After a myriad of controversy surrounding the film, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role, gets its release this weekend. The film follows the titular character as he slowly moves from Arthur Fleck, a loner struggling through life as a clown, to the infamous supervillain. His descent into madness is largely brought on by the way he is treated by nearly everyone in his life, leading him to become his homicidal alter ego and working towards his version of balance in Gotham.
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We have seen some great actors take on the role of the Joker, and Joaquin Phoenix is the latest to do so. After Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight was followed by a widely criticized turn by Jared Leto, Phoeniz was given the difficult task of taking the character in a much different and darker direction. And in the end, he turns in an amazing performance, easily moving into the second spot behind Ledger in Joker portrayals. While Ledger has fascinating ticks and quirks spread through his performance, Phoenix brought in a lot of emotion and does a great job showing how beat down the character becomes, almost making you empathize with him.
Another performance that stood out to me is that of Robert DeNiro. While DeNiro’s talent is unquestionable, it would have been easy, and almost expected, for him to phone in a role in a comic book movie. He never does so and manages to shine during his several key moments on the screen.
The film shows a different version of Gotham than what we’ve seen before. It makes some interesting choices not only for the Joker character, but also for the world surrounding Gotham and the backstory of the Wayne family. I was on board for a lot of these choices, but I’ll be interested to see how a general audience, and hardcore comics fans specifically, receives these changes.
There isn’t a lot more to say without getting into spoiler territory. The movie is shot well and Phillips breaks out as a director past his previous work in comedy. It was fascinating to follow the Joker character solely for a whole film. I also have to mention the score, which is fantastic and really helps echo the descent into madness.
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Joker is definitely a recommend from me. It is more suitable for fans of comic book movies, but because it is a standalone title, I think there is a lot here for people just interested in a really well-made character piece. While chances for a sequel are incredibly slim, I would be interested in seeing how the character progresses past this movie. It is a borderline Golden Donut, but I need to sith the movie for longer to see how it changes over time.
For now, Joker gets a high Positive ROP.
Ratings from low to high: Felony, Misdemeanor, 10-4, Positive ROP, Golden Donut