The Dark Knight holds up more than decade since its release later because, comic book storytelling notwithstanding, the realistic approach of Christopher Nolan kept its stories grounded. While the Caped Crusader was unquestionably the lead, the film went out of its way to emphasize its antagonist, directing the attention of its audience’s empathy for its central villain without remotely condoning or justifying their actions. At its best, 2019’s Joker plays like a spiritual offshoot of The Dark Knight.
Joker centers around DC Comics’ iconic arch nemesis in an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. Directed by Todd Phillips, the origin story paints the rise and fall (or fall and rise?) of Arthur Fleck, a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night. Caught in a cyclical existential loop between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.
While there are certainly elements drawn from The Killing Joke, it should be noted that Joker does not adhere itself to its source material. A commendable move by the studio and the filmmaker considering the current moviegoing climate that worships sequel, spinoffs and shared cinematic franchises. As a result, Joker is liberated from many of the narrative shackles that it would have otherwise. Todd Phillips’ Joker succeeds both as entertainment and provocation, with a Oscar-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix that puts a horrifically human face on an iconic comic-book villain.
On its surface, Joker is an unorthodox story of how a supervillain based on a comic book is made. However, underneath its facade, the film is a subtle exploration of the importance of empathy and the tragic consequences of a society devoid of it. At its core, 2019’s Joker is a powerfully unsettling character study that also serves as a reflection on society itself.
Gritty, disturbing and violent, Joker is a depressingly but strangely beautiful horror film that evokes the nihilism of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. While superhero films like SHAZAM! and Aquaman are delightful entries that serve as course correction for the franchise, Joker gives its infamous character a disturbingly plausible origin tale that serves as a tremendous showcase for its star. With a fantastic script, an iconic character, as well as a superb performance by Joaquin Phoenix, Joker make even the edgiest superhero entry seem safe.
Catch ‘Joker’ cinemas nationwide 3rd October 2019
Review written by: Alex Low