Arthur Fleck: I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Ever since this movie premiered there’s been a lot about it with it inspiring real world violence but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. So many people have been praising this as the perfect 10/10 movie of the year, art of pure perfection, and something that will reinvent the comic book genre. Well I’m here to be the judge of that and let me tell you folks…I definitely disagree. So if you’re unwilling to accept anything but glowing praise for this movie stop reading this article right now and feel free to type your hateful comments before hitting the X box in whatever browser you’re reading this in. In fact I’ll help you with a couple of insults feel free to use any of them: You can call me a hater, a DC hater, a Joker hater (none of these are true mind you but please don’t let truths get in the way of a good insult), a dark and grittiness hater, a troll, an artistic cinema hater, an MCU fanboy, an Arrowverse fanboy, a moron, an idiot, a dumbass, an SJW, a man who doesn’t know a good movie if it hit me in the head, just being edgy, just agreeing with the other critics to fit in, a part of the liberal establishment, and so on and so forth. Bad grammar is not only allowed but also encouraged. You still here? Good now let’s go on to the review of the movie.
The story takes place in the 1980s and involves lonely and failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) living in Gotham City with his mother Penny (Frances Conroy). He wears a mask not only as a clown as part of his job but also metaphorically as a member of society. However Arthur is constantly isolated, bullied, and disregarded by society, which causes him to descend into madness and become the Joker.
So let’s talk about the good stuff first because it’d be wrong to say there isn’t good stuff in this movie and that it’s complete and utter trash. Let me just say Joaquin Phoenix absolutely NAILED it as the title character. Ever since Heath Ledger’s portrayal 11 years ago it’s been a tough act to follow. Cameron Monaghan of Gotham was definitely top notch but the direction for his story wasn’t always perfect. Jared Leto of Suicide Squad was just a plain disgrace. But Phoenix’s performance did amazing in diving deep into the darkest depths of his character making us feel for all his pain, his agony, and overall desperation to be accepted and it makes the choices he makes understanding. It’s very much a frightening dive into the psyche of a serial killer that’s honestly disturbing but interesting in just how layered it is. It’s something that will make you wonder, “Would you be inclined to make choices like Arthur did if you were in his shoes?”
The director for this movie Todd Phillips also directed the Hangover trilogy and if you were to tell me that I wouldn’t believe it. He knows how to direct this world in a realistic way and has such dominance over it that keeps you invested. The people in this society don’t feel too over the top or complete douches. It paints a very realistic frightening image of just how nightmarish and heartless people can be not just through things like the scenes with the riots but things like Arthur getting fired, him being mocked for his comedy by talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro), people like Alfred Pennyworth (Douglas Hodge) and others berating him just for trying to make kids laugh, or the Wayne Enterprises businessmen attacking him due to his laughing condition, the truth about his parentage, etc. All of this and more paint a picture of so much fear involving the affect it has on our main character and where things are going to go in every moment.
Okay so everything seems to be on point here with a strong lead and good direction. So what could possibly be wrong with this movie? Well brace yourself cause I’m probably going to cause a lot of anger with these remarks. You ready? You sure? All right let’s go.
There is little if ANY reason to connect this to Batman or Joker lore. And they do try to connect it with it being set in a crime-ridden Gotham City, Thomas Wayne attempting to run for mayor and trying to do the right thing for Gotham, when Arthur goes to visit Thomas he meets the young Bruce Wayne and quickly angers Alfred, the revelation that the future Joker may be a half brother of Bruce’s to make some kind of connection, and of course Thomas and Martha Wayne being gunned down in an alley. Gotham City could just be plain old crime-ridden New York there’s nothing very distinct about its look or feel about it that it’s a crazy city. Everything to do with Thomas Wayne, this could literally be anyone else and it wouldn’t make a difference. When I first saw Alfred even if it was brief I was just like I didn’t see a man who would be Bruce’s only companion and guardian growing up I just saw just another average person. And of course we have Bruce’s parents getting gunned down in an alleyway which we’ve seen so many times that it’s honestly become a joke at this point and I didn’t think it was possible but somehow I care even less for it here and like most times it’s happened the movie seemed quite focused on it. If you were to cut out the fact that this is connected to the overall Batman lore you would literally have the same movie.
So overall we have a great Joker. We have a great movie. But we don’t have a great Joker movie. The fact that it’s trying to connect itself to Batman and be an origin for the clown prince of crime is what really drags it down for me. I give it credit it’s not like what they did in Catwoman but still. If Phoenix had an opportunity to be the Joker in a Batman movie, if this were just a story outside of the overall DC lore this I would definitely consider this the masterpiece that many make it out to be. Make of that what you will.