There have been as many takes on the Joker as there has been on Batman. From petty criminal that leaves practice jokes to psychopath that cuts smiles in to the faces of his random victims, but Todd Phillips’ version is unique even among those. He doesn’t fight Batman, Batman doesn’t even exist, instead he is a dark meditation on poverty, mental health and gun violence.
Joker is a hard movie to do a synopsis for. It is best not knowing anything about it going in to it, but it will be shock to those looking for Batman movie. This is a DC Comics movie almost in name only. They do add some connections to the Batverse, but they are the exception not the rule. Just know that Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) life is a brutal and sad one.
Todd Phillips and the rest of the writers really took a swing for something with Joker. It is clear they wanted to make a riff on the 19070’s/80’s Martin Scorsese films. It would fit comfortably with Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. In fact, Scorsese was attached to produce for a while until breaking off to do The Irishman for Netflix. Still, it is a pretty convincing imitation. You could have told me this was a Scorsese movie, and I would have believed you.
What really makes Joker work is Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. He is mesmerizing, and keeps the audience rooting for Arthur for longer than they should. The rest of the cast is talented, but this mostly a one man show, and I think whether or not you like this movie will depend on how you feel about Phoenix’s performance.
Joker is not a movie for those looking for the next popcorn comic book movie. It is for people who want to see a dark tale about mental illness in America, but since this is 2019, your movie has to be based on some IP (intellectual property) or part of some ‘verse to get movie executives’ attention, and the fact Todd Phillips used Batman’s greatest villain to get his movie made, might be Joker’s best gag.
P.S. This movie is a hard ‘R’. Please don’t take your kids to see it.