After listening to controversies, seeing headlines, and watching for both praise and criticisms, I finally decided to see Joker for myself. Firstly, I have always been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix, and had no doubts he would be amazing. Secondly, I never thought the Batman villain really needed a backstory, but if he had to have one, I figured that this film would do it right. I was not wrong.
I still remember back in the day when Christopher Nolan’s very realistic and gritty interpretation of Batman took cinema by storm. This year after over ten years of Marvel films, which are in no way silly but are by every means “Superhero” movies, this film dives back into the more real, brutal view of character-driven stories that happen to be about superheroes and villains. You’re following a tragic story of a mentally ill man who happens to become the famous Joker villain we all know, and in some ways a story like this could be told or made about anybody. To insert names and characters we already are familiar with makes it in some ways better, and creates a lasting impact.
It’s not easy to watch. It’s not exactly funny or entertaining – I found myself laughing a lot less than some of the audience members, probably because I’ve been watching too much Mindhunter. Still, I for one am a film critic who goes in as open-minded as possible, trying to let films impact me the way the makers want it to. If a film truly cannot move me, I count it as poorly written, for the most part. I knew this one would move me, and it did, even while I knew it would end chaotically. Overall, I recommend it highly, for someone who liked The Dark Night series, even Batman the Animated Series. You have to mind the R rating, and go in knowing this isn’t the same Joker we’re used to, but it is about the man we all kind of knew the Joker was- he’s mentally ill. On top of that, life handed him really bad cards, and eventually he played his own.
The controversies, in my opinion, are not dumb as much as they are over-hyped. People continue to find fault with movies, and pretend that movies, shows, video games, and just about anything will “make people do bad stuff.” I don’t know when we are going to stop pretending that that’s mostly nonsense, but apparently this is not the time. I can understand where people are coming from, though if you have to complain about this movie, then you kind of have to just throw that blanket on the entire line-up of shows and movies over the years.
I do have to give the film credit for emphasizing two major factors that influenced Arthur’s (the Joker) decisions. For one thing, the man was on seven different medications. Seven. I have to ask, how many people on that many mediations can be expected to function any better than if they had less? What are those drugs doing to him, and were they actually helping? Secondly, it shows that his co-worker provided him with the gun that he used later on. He may not have known how mentally ill Arthur was, but someone gave him, without knowing him that well, a gun, which demonstrates extremely poor judgement on his part. I was glad to see they didn’t show him just walking into a store and buying a gun, which is an overused theme in my opinion.
It’s also interesting to note that the riots started were never his intention. Arthur is in this fight purely for himself, and himself alone. Sure, he wants attention, he wants and needs love from people, just as we all do human beings. We were all made for interaction and reciprocated love. As with most character stories, you see his struggle to fulfill this basic human need. He grew up without a father, learns his mother may be as mentally disturbed as he is, and is mocked constantly for various reasons. The protests going on in Gotham about “killing the rich,” are eerily close to our own recent debates in our country, but the film isn’t taking a stand. Rather, it’s up to the audience to decide if the Gotham protestors idolizing Arthur is a way of showing how desperate they are for someone to look to, for someone to lead them, even if that someone has no care whatsoever about their end goals. Sure, Arthur was bitter and when he confronted Thomas Wayne he tried to make him sympathize with his living conditions, but that was never his initial purpose, nor his motive by the end.
My podcast will go over more details of the movie and will be up fairly soon, and I invite you to comment your thoughts and opinions on the movie. How did it make you feel? Comment if you don’t want to see it, and explain why, if you care to.
Happy movie going.