Rogue Hippo’s Review Score: 9
Let me start by saying that I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of this movie. I’m on record somewhere on OiO stating that The Joker is best with no origin story; just a crazed, nameless villain to oppose Batman… perhaps even created entirely because of the existence of Batman. After finally seeing Joker, I have to admit that I was wrong.
At the risk of oversimplifying the Batman VS Joker dynamic, both believe that humanity is at a tipping point between order and chaos, good and evil. Batman believes we can be pulled back from the brink. The Joker feels otherwise. And while Batman has had countless feature films to spread his message, Joker will leave you rooting for the whole house of cards to come crashing down.
Things start slowly enough. Arthur Fleck (pre-Joker) is just another guy struggling to survive. He has many of the same problems that many of us have… an awful job, a sick family member, social anxiety, a lack of money and condition that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times (well, most of us can’t relate to that last one).
After a series of traumatic events (which I won’t spoil), Arthur starts spiraling toward rock-bottom. What’s impressive is that the ride kept me guessing the entire way. I mean, we all know that Arthur is going to end up as the Joker; but despite that, I had absolutely no idea how the film was going to take me from point A to point B. That’s amazing in itself as Hollywood often struggles with predictability.
What’s also amazing is some of the debate that has surrounded Joker. There has been some fear-mongering that the film could inspire isolated loners to go over the edge and lash out at society. While I haven’t heard of any such cases, I was well aware of my surroundings and it wasn’t lost on me that approximately 2/3rds of the audience at my showtime consisted of men sitting alone. That has to be an aberration.
The other debate is whether the film portrays Arthur Fleck as a villain or a victim. I’ve found that this may fall in line with your view of society in general. I’ve heard from some chronically optimistic individuals that assert Arthur is 100% the villain in this movie. He, and everything he did, is wrong. I’m a bit of a cynic myself and feel that Arthur is 50% villainous and 50% a victim of circumstance. For now, I’ll chaulk my moral uncertainty up to an excellent performance by Joaquin Phoenix. The Joker can’t be an easy role to play and he nails it. He want from an actor that I was indifferent about to a guy I’d like to get drunk with just to find out how he thinks. I also feel that he’s the best Joker to date. I wonder if my chronically optimistic comrades would agree.
If there are any flaws with Joker, it’s that the movie takes some pretty big liberties with The Joker’s connection to the Wayne family (explained below if you don’t mind spoilers). The first connection is bold and they intentionally leave you questioning whether or not it’s actually true. The second connection is plausible and it’s an interesting twist on the Batman mythos. While I’m no Batman expert, both of these connections are pretty big departures from the Batman story that we’ve known for years and I have to believe that neither of them are considered canon.
CONNECTION #1- The Joker is Batman’s half brother… maybe???
CONNECTION #2- The Joker’s initial crime spree caused the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
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There you have it! For me, Joker went from a movie that I felt didn’t need to be made to movie movie that had me grinning as I watched society crumble. I, for one, stand firmly with Team Joker. Go see for yourself and let us know which side you’re on.
Until Next Time,