It feels like everybody had an opinion about Joker well before the film even came out. But now the R-rated origin story is in theaters for all to see, and thus informed opinions can be shared.
The film originated with a pitch by co-writer/director Todd Phillips, who approached Warner Bros. about doing a one-off Joker origin story movie with a twist: smaller budget, no franchise building, and more of a character study than a blockbuster. He secured Joaquin Phoenix as his star, and set about crafting this new, original twist on the birth of one of the most iconic villains in DC Comics history.
Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a lonely, mentally ill man who aspires to be a famous stand-up comedian. But as his life spirals out of control, he violently begins to give birth to the villain known as “Joker.”
Phillips and Phoenix take a lot of risks here, not just in terms of the film’s portrayal of violence, but in altering DC Comics canon in significant, shocking ways. Of course, there’s also the larger implications of a mentally unwell man who feels under-appreciated and takes violent action in order to be noticed, which doesn’t quite feel like it’s handled with the specificity or tact necessary to hone in on a cohesive thematic “point.”
But Phoenix’s performance is undeniably phenomenal, as Arthur grotesquely struts around Gotham City slipping further and further into a pit of depression, to the point that he starts to resemble more of a creature than a human being. The craft of the film is tremendous as well, with cinematographer Lawrence Sher keeping an intimate focus on Arthur/Joker’s point of view while teasing the grimy world he inhabits, and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir crafts one of the best (and most haunting) scores of the year.
Enough of my rambling. Matt Goldberg’s full review is on the site, but now we want to hear from you, the fans. What did you think about Joker? Is the film dangerous, as some contend? Did you find Phillips’ take on the character compelling? How does Phoenix stack up against prior Joker performances? Do you hope to see more in a potential sequel? Sound off in the comments below.
And to read our breakdown of the film’s ending, click here.