Director Todd Phillip’s long awaited “Joker” standalone film is finally upon us, and has been showered with critical and commercial success right out of the gate. However, what exactly makes this film so great, and is it a must watch for all audiences? These are just a few of the questions we aim to answer in the following piece on the film.
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What is “Joker” About?
In essence, the newest “Joker” movie is a part of the DCEU, or DC Extended Universe of Films. This film specifically, focuses on the origin of the infamous member of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, The Joker, or does it? First off, it’s important to mention that this film barely qualifies as a comic book movie. While we always imagine comic book movies as being kid-friendly, campy, comedy/action flicks which are a great way to waste a couple of hours, one look at the Joker’s trailer, and you will understand exactly what I mean when I say this is barely a comic book film. Onto the synopsis; Joker follows Arthur Fleck, a middle-aged man with serious psychological issues. Tired of being shunned by society, and after a major shock in his life, Arthur undergoes strict and severe changes, eventually transforming into the first incarnation of the Joker. Now, it’s unclear whether Joaquin Phoenix’s Fleck is actually the main continuity Joker we see in other forms of media, but as the Joker always says, he always prefers his origin to be multiple choice. Now what remains to be seen is how this character is tied into the rest of the DC Extended Universe. It is worth mentioning however, that it may never do so. After the critical smashing and commercial bombs that were Justice League and Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice, DC executives reportedly decided to take a step back from making an extended universe similar to Marvel’s, and instead chose to make more individually contained experiences, as seen with Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Aquaman till date.
Why is it Being Praised?
Having seen the film, it’s almost impossible to answer this question, but worth a shot nonetheless. First of all, the direction. Director Todd Phillips, who strangely enough before directed the Hangover series, beautifully transitioned from making trashy comedy films to one of the most horrific psychologically intimidating films of all time. The camera is tight, canted, and uncomfortably close to subjects at all times, making the audience feel as suffocated and drowned as the characters on screen are constantly feeling. This is a true masterclass in veteran direction, and how the camera work can make or break a film.
The far more glamorous and widely discussed answer, is Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck, the titular Joker character. His performance is sympathetic, angry, crazy, psychotic, and tragic all at the same time. The seemingly impossible role, previously brought to life by such legendary names as Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, is executed masterfully by Phoenix, perhaps the best portrayal of the character to date, and setting a bar which is unlikely to be matched by anyone in the future.
In conclusion, it goes without saying now that Joker is one of those films which must be seen by anyone and everyone. Barring violence, and some gore, there is no good reason not to see this film.