The villain Joker, known from the Batman comic book series, has been reinvented in many forms throughout the life cycle of the franchise. Video games, multiple movies, tv shows and, of course, the comics have all seen the infamous character. With Todd Phillips directing and Joaquin Phoenix playing the clown himself, Joker tells an impactful story of dread, mental illness and what it’s like to be one of the voiceless in a crime-filled city.
Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a mentally unstable man who lives with his ill mother in rundown Gotham City. Fleck has to deal with a multitude of horrible events throughout the film, which eventually push him to be the villain the world knows him as today.
Right from the beginning Joker sets the stage as a tragedy, but Joker would call it a comedy. Set by a haunting violin score by Hildur Guðnadóttir, the setting forgoes a looming threat that is the Joker. Phoenix does a brilliant job portraying the mad clown. His hysterical laugh is painful and has a logical reason behind it. That helps further develop the character’s psychosis in unprecedented ways.
The art direction encapsulates the tone of the movie, between the green neon lights encompassing the bathrooms and subway lights flickering off and on that lead to tense moments set by the famous Joker laugh. These small details are an added foundation to what makes Joker an outstanding piece of work.
Throughout the film, audiences start to feel bad for what’s happening to Fleck. The man has been dealt several bad hands, and it’s hard to see how the world treats him. Despite his unfulfilling life, his actions aren’t excusable, which has led to the main fear of people sympathizing with the character and his evil actions. The film doesn’t ask the audience to cheer on Fleck’s horrible acts, but instead tells the story of what leads Fleck to this moment and what role we have in making the Joker.
Joker is a film for anyone who wants to think about topics like mental illness, what role society has and what can lead someone to chaos rather than redemption. It’s pushing the standard of comic book movies by telling a compelling story with no restrictions. With Phoenix giving an Oscar-worthy performance, it’s definitely a film to see for Batman fans and cinephiles alike.