NATHANIEL BEACH, Sports Editor—Compared to other superhero films, this movie takes an incredibly dark, realistic and twisted look into one of the comic book industry’s most infamous villains – the Joker. The movie originally described by director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) and lead Joaquin Phoenix was that of a character study. Unlike most superhero comic characters, the Joker has no defined origin. In The Killing Joke, an iconic 1988 graphic novel, The Joker tells Batman that “if I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” However, in this film, the Joker’s roots are hair-raisingly defined. Born Arthur Fleck, he’s a mentally deranged social reject with a history of insanity, who lives a mother who tried to burn him alive as a child. In the past, both Fleck’s mother and himself have spent time in the same mental asylum – Arkham. Now they share one common bond: a passion for watching Murray Franklin, a nightly TV talk-show host played by Robert De Niro. Arthur Fleck’s life starts simple, from being a clown-for-hire and a wannabe stand- up comedian. Though as he soon realizes, he only has one joke in his hand – his life.
A brain injury has left Arthur with a rare medical condition that produces uncontrollable shrieks of laughter in the most tragic moments of life. Unable to hold down a job, Arthur ekes out a living as a grotesque clown, entertaining tourists and kids until he gets fired for carrying his loaded gun into a children’s hospital. After that emotional setback, he is, needless to say, never the same.’
Joker is so feverishly close to today’s news that the media fears of inspiration in fans seem plausible. Every time you think no creature so vile could ever exist in real life, along comes another headline.
Frank Sinatra singing “Send In The Clowns” adds welcome humor, the cinematography is so incredible that the camera becomes a character in the middle of all the action, and Phoenix’s schizophrenic performance blazes like a bonfire.
Joker is influenced by the masterpieces of legendary director Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, the latter of which saw Joker co-star Robert De Niro play Rupert Pupkin, a deranged, fame-hungry stalker of a famous late-night comedy host. De Niro’s role in Joker brings everything full circle. This influence allows Joker to sit apart from the traditional Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe movies that rake in billions of dollars each year. This is different. Joker throws preexisting notions of superhero movies out the door, following only its own rules.
Joaquin Phoenix had large clown shoes to fill with the legendary, Oscar-winning performance of the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight It seemed impossible to out-do Ledger’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime. Phoenix however, did just that. In the greatest performance of his career, Phoenix is electrifying. That laugh… that dance… that sprint… that walk…
Weeping, shrieking, dragged screaming through police stations and mental asylums, then pausing after each evil slaughter to dance balletic tour jetés, he’s portrayed as a sick, twisted failure in life who takes his torment out on the rest of the world, he is not a hero by any means, but instead an evil and twisted soul who went foul as a result of society, in a movie that borders on genius – “repellant, dark, terrifying, disgusting, brilliant and unforgettable.”