Michael Olderr, Staff Writer
DC’s Joker is one of the most memorable villains ever put to the page, and his movie does him justice. Joker gives us not only a darkest entry into the superhero genre, but also a work that will be analyzed by film students in the near-future.
Joaquin Phoenix gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the titular Joker, a character who, from the get-go, we learn not to trust. Director Todd Philips creates a scary cautionary tale to those who are apathetic to the world around them. Others have played the role of Joker before him, but very few have portrayed him as quite like Phoenix. Arthur Fleck (the Joker’s real name) is played out to be, in a way, a fallen angel of sorts. He is not born a monster, nor is his fall sympathetic, but one bad day turned his whole life around. This is not a change that happens in the flick of a switch, but rather is slow-paced and menacing.
Arthur is a man who longs for human connection. However, the world that Arthur lives in does not connect with him, so in return, he cannot properly connect to the world. He perfectly captures the experience of someone who struggles with mental illness; it is something that he cannot control or contain. His mental state is like a ball and chain that anchors him down, dragging him to extreme depths. His transformation from a sweet, misunderstood man to a corrupted psychopath bent on watching the world burn is nothing short of a tragedy. Arthur becomes something unrecognizable. He becomes a monster, a symbol for the worst of humanity.
In the comics, the Joker does not have an origin story. However, in the comics he claims that if he had a past, he would like it to be multiple choice and that’s the basis for the film. Joker is the most ambiguous superhero film ever created. Viewers are already drawing connections to the movie Taxi Driver, which raised similar questions about its protagonist’s morality. Joker consistently suggests that everything that is being shown is what’s real, and subtly challenges you to dig below the surface. It’s one of the few films where the theory that the character was asleep the entire time is entirely plausible. It has red herrings that will be debated for decades to come. All the while, the movie is accompanied with a theme befitting for a character who has been dubbed the “Jester of Genocide”; it immerses you in a dark coronation.
To speak to Joker’s weaker elements, the movie builds itself on the Batman mythos and adheres to Batman-world conventions. But even with that, it allows the movie to be understood as being part of a bigger scheme of things, though maybe not to the extent of a gigantic, multi-movie, cinematic universe.
Joker serves as a cautionary tale to those who look down on other people and those who live by their pride, but it can also be argued that it does not do enough to condemn Joker’s actions. At the end of the day, it’s a story about a cruel man in a cruel world doing cruel things; it’s not something you should base your morality on. Joker is a methodical, dark and bleak film– the perfect tribute to the first supervillain.
This article was originally published in the October 11, 2019 issue.