Joker is now playing in theaters but is this new take on the Clown Prince of Crime’s origin story worth checking out? Absolutely, and you can find our spoiler-free verdict on the movie right here…
Joker is a movie that’s found itself surrounded by controversy in recent weeks and it will now be up to moviegoers to decide whether that has been justified. However, look past the headlines and you’ll find not only a great comic book movie but a film that’s deserving of some serious awards attention next year.
Director Todd Phillips (perhaps best known for his work on The Hangover Trilogy) has emerged as a filmmaker who not only makes a jaw-dropping impact with his take on the Clown Prince of Crime’s origin story but who will undoubtedly be one of the most sought after talents in Hollywood moving forward. Phillips and cinematographer Lawrence Sher deliver a beautifully shot, sometimes shockingly violent take on the Batman villain’s past and it’s impossible not to get lost in this version of Gotham City. It may be New York City with a different name but it also feels far more dangerous and real than any other previous take on the home of the Caped Crusader.
The Joker has never had a definitive origin story and that’s allowed Phillips to deliver his own “Killing Joke” in a fascinating and tragic look at one man’s descent into madness. Society has turned its back on the mentally ill Arthur Fleck and a series of unfortunate events leads to him heading down a very dark path that will change him, and Gotham, forever.
It is, of course, down to Joaquin Phoenix to bring Fleck to life and his physical, mesmerising performance is truly unmissable. What we see here is an actor who is undeniably on a different level to pretty much everyone else out there. From his strained cackle to his skeletal frame and the momentary glimpses of madness that cross his face, Phoenix is firing on all cylinders and this is a performance which will leave us with plenty to talk about for years to come. The supporting cast is fine but they’re all just there to fill in the gaps in Arthur’s world; this is very much Phoenix’s movie and while Robert DeNiro certainly makes a memorable impact as talk show host Murray Franklin, there’s only one person who will be (deservedly) picking up award after award next year.
Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score is fantastic as is the soundtrack. It’s a shame that there’s no sign of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” (a song which was rumoured to play a large role in the film’s climax) but that takes nothing away fromwhat we’re seeing and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll” is a good substitute despite being a somewhat controversial choice given the singer’s history.
Joker is definitely influenced by the comic books and there’s plenty here for fans to appreciate. At its core, though, while it may not feature the villain battling it out with The Batman, this is just a masterclass in acting and filmmaking. It would have been nice to spend a little more time with Arthur as Joker but when the time comes for that, you won’t move from the edge of your seat.
One of the best comic book movies of all-time, Joker takes us to some dark places but it’s a richly rewarding (and haunting) experience which is anchored by an unbelievable performance from Joaquin Phoenix. It’s a masterpiece.