Anybody who knows Lcid knows that Batman is his favorite superhero. He even tells coffeeshop baristas that his name is “Bruce” (well, also because he’s too lazy to spell out Lcid). The brand new Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix is at best a well-thought-out representation of how Gotham had fallen to ruin because of the great failure of men like Thomas Wayne to step off their Ivory Tower. At worst, it’s just a regular origin story for a serial killer that they then call “The Joker” in order to bring in audiences.
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT for the Joker movie.
Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck was easily the best part of the movie. In fact, he was the movie. Joker is Arthur’s slow acceptance of his nature, the nature he’s been fighting to keep at bay through medication. The film attempted to show this through his laugh. That dead-on haunting laugh that stays with you long after you’ve left the cinema. At the beginning of the movie, it’s shown as an uncontrollable act due to a mental illness (also portrayed magnificently in this film), and that it does not reflect how he’s feeling. In fact, his laughter appears to be pain as tears leave his eyes as he laughs. He even does his best to prevent himself from laughing. But as the movie goes on, you see him smile genuinely for the first time and even chuckle (as he starts killing people). Audiences were left.
However, the defining component of his character, more so than the laugh, was the dancing. Arthur simply wanted to be loved, to perform in front of a crowd that cheered his name. The cinematography during these scenes was jaw-dropping. It was spectacular in showing the eerie creepiness of his character but showed you the extent of the emotion he felt and the motivations he had.
The acting was amazing. The portrayal was wonderful. The story around the reasons for character’s decision-making, however, was lacking.
His motivations are where the 2019 Joker failed. They tried to give the Joker a simplistic and linear motivation that goes against the complexity of the character. He’s a yin to a yang. He has a point to prove. There is a beautiful madness to the character that pushes his actions. Prior Joker performances were in juxtaposition to a Batman already existing in that universe. Batman is central to the Joker’s character because Batman made him. In the comics, Batman fails to save The Joker from falling into a vat of chemicals, which then bleaches his skin and turns his hair green. His motivations are wild, unpredictable, and sometimes, non-existent. It’s the mindlessness that makes The Joker’s character. This Joker is just a regular serial killer whose primary motivation is to punish the bad guys that hurt him. He just kills everyone who was “awful”. It’s almost like you just gave a serial killer a few guns, and a skull t-shirt, then called the movie “Punisher”. It didn’t really understand the character they were trying to base it on. The only thing they got right was keeping his history in constant doubt.
Is Thomas Wayne really his father?
Is he really just adopted?
We’ll never really know.
Finally, this Joker was just so lucky. He kills the Wall street kids on an empty train where no one sees him, he sneaks past a police barricade through a path where again nobody sees him, he meets a 9-year-old Bruce Wayne at the latter’s compound at the exact time Alfred takes a bathroom break. It was too convenient. It was too easy. This was a recurring problem in the story. It’s too simplistic and linear. There are no choices to be made, no moral dilemmas or crossroads that The Joker normally forces his victims into.
It’s just a horrible world that churned out a horrible person that decided to abandon the morals of that society. That’s it. This movie branded itself in the comic book movie genre as a cash grab, and then gave us a generic tragedy. Outside of little easter eggs like “I had a bad day” from The Killing Joke, the movie didn’t really do a lot to call back to the source material.
They wasted Joaquin Phoenix’s unforgettable portrayal and performance in a very forgettable “Joker” movie. Heath Ledger is still the best live-action Joker we’ve seen. I recommend watching this movie for its quality as a thriller. For comic book readers and Joker fans, I recommend skipping this one.