Joker: Controversial, Maniac, Political, Ambitious; It’s Exactly What Mainstream Cinema Should Be All About

Spoiler-Free Review!

Wow, I have…so much…to say about this…

Todd Phillips’s Joker is one of the most forbidding pieces of cinematic design to come to mind especially in recent years. Using its visually repulsive presentation to seize uncanny validity and to strike audiences worldwide of the truth about a terrorizing infection that’s leaked into the veins of every individual around the world, this film rivets its audience through all the grimmest corners of life before eventually abandoning them, pretending like they don’t exist, and giving up on them like how a fictional yet inspired world would give up on a supposed nobody like Arthur Fleck—a man dealing with the life-threatening weight of psychological anxieties. It’s brutal because it needs to be, and it’s unrestricted because it should have that right to be. I mean, how dare Hollywood try to make a legitimately compelling movie that’s produced for an exceedingly wide audience while finally dealing with serious matters like the dire consequences of avoiding mental health issues! Right?

I’m being sarcastic, by the way. In case you didn’t catch on.

Joaquin Phoenix transforms the character of the Joker into his own cynical, little puppet. He’s nothing like Ledger, nothing like Hamill, nothing like Nicholson, and thank goodness nothing like Leto. He’s putting on this petty “I’m fake happy” act throughout the majority of the nightmare and it just screeches all the crucial attributes of a “troubled sociopath.” It’s mind-boggling and frankly inventive how off-beat from society Phoenix makes Arthur appear in the film’s execution—which goes hand in hand with Todd Phillip’s surprisingly sufficient directing. At this point, I’m not going to say that Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar. He’s far past that. He’s far BETTER than that. They need to make like a whole, re-innovated rendition of the “Oscar” for people (limited to like, five individuals) who will be looked at as acting gods in the future. Whatever that may be, he deserves one of those instead. 

Todd Phillips’s directing in Joker is, again, I can’t believe I’m saying this, kind of suitable. Coming from a guy I was pretty skeptical about considering he’s made only one out of maybe like three movies that I’d consider “good,” the dude does some fairly constructive work on making the presentation of the movie feel evocative. Lawrence Sher’s cinematography needs recognition, bearing in mind, it’s fairly dynamic. Most folks seem to be split on Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score, but I found it to be absolutely fitting with the film’s unmatched tone. It’s brilliant, shocking, and emotional during all the right moments. She did an underrated job on Sicario: Day of the Soldado and now she’s doing an underrated job on Joker.

While Joker’s directing, acting, cinematography, and musical composition may seem to be operating victoriously, the one deficiency that I believe held Joker down from being some “magnum opus” of violent, entertainment affairs, were many portions of the script. The story for about the first half of the movie felt very convenient, and I began to get reasonably worried that the movie was going nowhere. All that banal “bulling” material that happens to Arthur was as barbarically absurd as they were in the trailers, and Arthur and Zazie Beetz’s character, Sophie’s relationship, felt more underdeveloped than the entire city of Detroit. However, as the story progressed, plot details only got brawnier and Arthur’s persona became even meatier through fresh plot disclosures. I’m not afraid to admit that I can appreciate what Phillips has done with the Joker story. He’s completely twisted in a way that will have comic-book loyalists in a hissy-fit but optimistics bewildered.

Even with these advantages, nevertheless, I’m not going to sit back and prattle at you that this movie’s script is great; it’s a tad chaotic. Clearly, though, it’s going for an exaggerated interpretation of its content which I was moderately fine with. I can suspend my disbelief for one, whole, engaging movie.

In the thick of it all, I think I’m just predominately riddled by Joker because I didn’t expect it to feel so Indie-like? Candidly, it’s not fast-paced, it takes its time, and its progression of being dry to becoming valid may seem unwelcomed to contemporary viewers (especially to those who are used to seeing the average, pedestrian comic-book adaptation). I’d almost describe it as if the perspective was purposely mucky and arbitrary but for a good cause. The consecutive experience feels very delusional, as if the story isn’t supposed to be told sensibly, but with, instead, some cinematic party tricks that catalyzes you to feel like you’re seeing the world through Arthur’s wrongly tampered mind.

One element I must applaud is probably also Joker’s most unexpected strand. I think it’s crucial that viewers recognize and discuss what Joker has to say about avoiding “mental abuse.” What Phillips’s script is concerning in terms of poor parenting and how it can truly take a toll on children while entirely shaping the future of human society is overlooked. It really sold me on just how intuitive this movie can occasionally be under its painted, camouflaged skin.

And yes, let’s (without spoilers, of course) talk about that third act. Talk about maliciously intense stuff! I don’t think I’ve felt this tense because of a finale since I saw Martin Scorsese’s The Departed for the first time. Clearly, this strenuous climax isn’t some sick campaign to make us vicious individuals. It’s, preferably, meant to scare us and to show us how easy this or a country can fall apart if we continue to ignore the less unfortunate people in this world—especially those trapped in poverty. Yes, the whole ordeal isn’t meant to really dig extraordinarily deep but is simply aimed to show us that it exists and that it’s TERRIFYING.

If the “professional” reviews for Joker (69% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 58 on Metacritic) and Captain Marvel (78% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 64 on Metacritic) can, at the very least, tell us anything, it can confirm that there is a serious, damaging political and company bias lodged into American entertainment culture these days. Joker certainly isn’t a flawless masterpiece, but it certainly isn’t vanilla, copy-and-paste cereal like Captain Marvel. This sort of topic is for another article, another day, nonetheless. Excuse my outrage.

I find it funny how this new, sensitive world we’re dwelling in whole-heartedly believes that Joker is “inciting violence,” when clearly it’s using the detestable city of Gotham—a place that is on the mere verge of losing its marbles—to impersonate the current state of America (or the plausible future state of America, or sincerely, at this point, the future state of any other country) and how violent we’ve currently become as a collective. In a modern-day society where people are primarily focusing on banning material properties to stop violence, rather than chiefly concentrating on digging at the root (the science! the humanity!) of the problem (mental health) which so many Americans are suffering under today, it makes sense that ignorant individuals would perceive Joker as some annihilistic wake-up call to ignite violence.

I want to leave this review off on a joke though (let’s end this with a smile!), so I guess I’ll say that I didn’t expect Joker to be so...serious.


Verdict: B

2019 Ranked

“Joker” will be released in theaters on October 4, 2019. 

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