Joker: A Review for a Society

Joker is a standalone origin story of Batman’s most infamous villain. It’s about how a guy becomes the Joker. Arthur Fleck is a deeply flawed man suffering from a condition where he can’t control his reactions. He feels too deeply, reacts too strongly, laughs at inappropriate times. Consecutive tragedies befall him and he enters a downward spiral mentally. Some conflicts, escalation, blah blah blah, and BAM! he becomes a supervillain. I think. Maybe? The film patterns itself clearly after classic Martin Scorsese films, such as Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982) but never in a million years hits those highs. This is a film that gives as much as you give. Your expectations and desires for the film are going to directly impact your enjoyment of it. The sins of the film might seem unavoidable to some, while the beauty of it may seem all-encompassing to others. The truth, in most dichotomies like this, is somewhere in the middle. If you are open-minded to alternative depictions of famous cartoon characters, if you want superhero movies but want them different and with more artistic flair than a homogeneous Marvel film, or you want to see a fantastic lead performance: watch this film. Even if you don’t love it, it’s worth seeing under those considerations. If you’re not a fan of common dime store cynicism with mediocre dialogue, predictable plot twists, and a large disregard for an iconic character, don’t watch this film. If you are on both sides of what I just said, think about which aspects you value more and that will tell you what you will think about the film.

"King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword." Charlie Hunnam had lost 20 pounds for the last season of Sons of Anarchy (2008). During auditions, director Guy Ritchie was very bothered by his look, though he liked his performance, and asked him four times during the process about his poor physique. Hunnam said that when Ritchie brought up the fourth time, he told Ritchie, "Look, dude, you keep bringing this up, the physicality. It's obviously your primary concern. So if you want to do away with all this auditioning bollocks, I'll fucking fight those other two dudes. I know who they are. You can bring them both in here. I'll fight them both. The one who walks out the door gets the job." Hunnam won the role.

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It would be easy to misread the previews for Joker. The media chose a story based on the tone of marketing that is not necessarily reinforced by the end product. The film actually leans mostly left, but I get the feeling this sort of controversy was intentional. The cynic inside me thinks getting everybody talking about this film in any capacity was better than selling its reality. The worst part of the film is the script. This might be one of the best I’ve seen with such a bad script. Talent goes a long way, but most lines delivered in this film are clearly half-baked platitudes borrowed from other films or what the writers thought people sounded like. They almost never feel human on the page, and the plot itself never takes profoundly interesting turns. The plot is focused on Arthur’s decay, and everything that surrounds him is done poorly. The love interest feels nonexistent in the worst possible way, while everybody else in this film just feels ugly. This film doesn’t want you to like anybody, everybody’s awful and tries to tell you the world is awful. The redeeming people inside the world don’t see the redemption. Like Arthur, everything breaks apart.

When the movie "Clue" was shown in theaters in 1985, each theater was given 1 of 3 possible endings.

It would help if the film felt compelled to do something with its political edge, but the most meaningful commentary in the film regarding mental health. Otherwise, the class issues and societal problems within are just trite and so out of place (for the most part), even Arthur doesn’t seem particularly involved with the politics at play. He has clear contempt for rich people, but he doesn’t like political statements beyond serving his own ego. This is appropriate for the Joker character, but it doesn’t create a cohesive set of values for the film to preach. So we see people being terrible. Every single person. Some more justifiable, some sympathetic, some clearly worse than Arthur himself, but nobody’s clean. There’s no moral center, and perhaps that’s an inherent problem to basing an entire film on a murderer.

"Snow White And The Huntsman." The drops of blood at the beginning of the film are drops of real blood from director Rupert Sanders. Sanders felt the fake blood looked too unrealistic, so he pricked his finger to get the shot he wanted.

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The director Todd Phillips is probably an above-average director and nothing beyond that. He makes every scene visually interesting and competent for the most part, but with the kind of critical goals this film wants to have, he just doesn’t deliver. The camera never does anything inventive or meaningful. Pretty and competent are as good as it gets here. There’s terrible CGI for specific moments that definitely needed practical effects. This is inexcusable.

Yet, I liked the film. It was fun! Structurally, the film actually follows through by the end. The pacing of the first two-thirds is a core issue, but the climax is strong. Pretentious ambiguity aside, the audience is on the edge of their seat by the time things start ramping up and that’s essential to walking away happy.

"The Matrix." Kung Fu choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen initially refused to work on the film, and hoped that by asking for an exorbitant fee, it would turn off the Wachowskis. It didn't. He next formulated what he considered an impossible request. He said that he'd agree only if he had complete control of the fights, and that he trained the actors for four months before they shoot. The Wachowskis complied with his request.

The costume design for Joker is great. Joker and Arthur are both visually identifiable which is important for the film to have its own identity. If Arthur resembled a previous Joker too much this film would be constantly compared to those versions. This Joker is only slightly reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s portrayal in The Dark Knight (2008), but the makeup and color of his suit are completely unique. Arthur as a singular character and the film’s approach to reinventing the Joker as a protagonist are commendable. I think this criticism of the film will be most misplaced. This Joker is true to the spirit of the character despite the vast departures. Arthur’s mental illness and traumas feel like the best core for the film and while he may not be pulling out laughing fish any time soon, the writers cared about how to depict him.

"Logan." Sir Patrick Stewart lost 21 pounds to play Charles Xavier as elderly and sick. Stewart claimed that he had a steady weight since he was a teenager and had never deliberately lost weight before.

They didn’t care as much as Joaquin Phoenix did. Nobody cared as much as him. Joaquin is the best part of the film, without debate. He sells the Joker, he sells Arthur. His unique brand is particularly inspired and every scene he’s in he tries to elevate what’s on the page. He’s worked out his laugh to be the best laugh I’ve ever heard for the Joker; every laugh he performs in this film is different and meant for a different context. I don’t mean to get too analytical just yet, but there’s only one time in the film where Arthur laughs genuinely, and so examining how Joaquin performs each of the countless laughs he goes through is remarkable.

"Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles." All the actors playing vampires were required to hang upside down for up to thirty minutes at a time during the make-up application. This would force all the blood in their bodies to rush to their heads, causing the blood vessels in their faces to bulge out. The make up artists would then trace over the swollen veins creating the eerie translucent-skinned vampire look. Unfortunately for the actors, they would have to repeat the process several times over, as the blood would quickly drain from their heads. This, in part, accounts for the lengthy make-up process.

Another easy example of Joaquin’s performance is in his flamboyance. A very easy and predictable arc for him to be sure. Arthur is meek at the start and becomes stronger and more vigorous as the film goes on and he becomes the Joker. The Joker is fearless, and Joaquin chooses to show this form of terrifying psychosis by being more and more evocative and putting more confidence in his effeminate speech patterns. He dances with pure joy when he commits to these depraved acts. If I could personally describe my thoughts on the Joker: he’s an artist trying to be a criminal. This Joker shows that in spades. This sort of performance to me meant Joaquin tried exceptionally hard, especially considering that his lines are never profoundly meaningful and the character never does anything particularly captivating. The most captivated we ever get is when we see Joaquin perform in highly tragic scenes.

James Cameron was homeless when writing the movie "The Terminator," and sold the rights for US$1, on the condition he could direct it.

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The good outweighs the bad. It was viewed in good faith and I received a good return because of that. We cannot dismiss the artistic merits of the film. I like the Joker as a character. I like him murdering rich people, I like him being eternal rivals with Batman, I like him just goofing off and whacking people with a boxing glove. He scratches a different itch than Batman. The dark humor the Joker provides is a chaser to the dark stoicism Batman can’t escape. Joker has that dark humor; it is filled with that darkness.

Psycho Is the First U.S. Film to Feature a Toilet Flushing. At a time it was considered inappropriate to show a toilet being flushed on screen, Alfred Hitchcock saw an opportunity to add some extra shock to his already shocking film—presenting a scrap of paper, which proves an important clue, failing to flush in a toilet. In the book, the clue was an earring found in the bathroom, but Hitchcock changed it to a piece of paper actually in the toilet, partly to add an extra jolt for viewers. And for more wacky info from Hollywood, don’t miss the 20 Craziest Celebrity Rumors of All Time.

The film is best seen with a group or in a filled theater. I found audience reactions fascinating to what they thought was funny or sad, or both. I almost felt like Arthur himself, curious and alien among the audience to see what morbid moments they’d laugh at next and what moments of horror actually affected them. Maybe that’s what the media was trying to warn me about.

7/10

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