Of all the comic book villains it’s safe to say, none are more instantly recognisable as The Joker. Over the years the clown prince of crime has seen many interpretations and variations through different media, from his comic book debut on April 25th 1940 through to campy TV shows, Saturday morning cartoons all the way to numerous silver screen a video game outings. Each time a new actor has donned the face paint they have brought something fresh and different to the character and in 2019, Joaquin Phoenix delivered a more fleshed out interpretation in Todd Phillips, Joker. Available to own from 10th February, is this psychological look into the man who laughs worth adding to your collection? let’s take a look.
Joker follows the story of Arthur Fleck, a struggling stand up comedian and victim of an abusive upbringing. In a city on the brink of chaos Arthur finds himself alienated by the few good things in his life as spiralling events lead to him losing his job followed by the funding for his support group being cut. As the wealthy and privileged flaunt their “superiority” over the struggling people of Gotham, Arthur begins to descend further into a broken and manic state of mind beginning his journey to becoming The Joker.
On the surface, Joker is a look into one man’s mental illness and his desperation in feeling alienated from the world around him causing a transformation into the psychotically twisted Joker. Although this is not the first time an attempt at providing an origin to the usually mysterious Joker, it is by far the most fleshed out. Drawing some inspiration from the popular 1988 “Batman: The Killing Joke” graphic novel and classic Martin Scorsese movies like “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy”.
The delivery of Arthurs journey is well told through a slow-paced, brooding narrative with impactful outbursts of violence while also providing a great look at our known “Heroes” through different eyes. Although set in the 80’s it also highlights a very modern issue of people, particularly males, who struggle with mental health, being ignored and let down by a social system that preaches tolerance and support but only if you fit a certain mould. On this side of things, Joker is a very powerful and well-told story though does begin to become unclear on what message its really trying to deliver.
As a representation and origin to the clown prince of crime, I found it somewhat lacking. Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix delivers a fantastic performance and his slow transformation from a nervous and quiet face in the crowd to paint wearing excentric was enjoyable to watch but also took away everything that makes The Joker such a great villain. Where Joker is usually terrifying due to his lust to cause chaos on any level with no care for how many get killed or injured in the process and with no explanation for who he really is or why he might be this way stripped away, we are left with a frankly more relatable character who no longer feels like such a scary “bad guy” (though granted you wouldn’t want to hire him for your kids birthday party) and more of a vigilante anti-hero in a similar style to The Punisher, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not The Joker.
Blu-Ray once again provides fantastic picture quality. The drab 80’s look for Gotham harkens back to the classic dirty look many older crime movies had when showing the filthier, mean street side of New York or Detroit. The murky greys of the graffiti-covered concrete jungle provide the perfect backdrop for the flush of colours from the Jokers costume and gives a subtle emphasis to Arthur finding his happiness in his newfound personality.
Sound quality is well balanced with the more intimate moments of hushed conversation not fading unnecessarily low in contrast to the action and music of the movie. The main score is brooding and engaging and compliments the story perfectly while licensed tracks by Marion Montgomery, Stephen Sondheim and Cream add a great duality to the mix.
The Blu-Ray features a small number of extras as writer-director Todd Phillips stated to Collider that he is not a fan of extended cuts and that deleted scenes are deleted for a reason.
- Joker: Vision & Fury
- Becoming Joker
- Please Welcome… Joker!
- Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos
Joker is a gritty, violent and moody movie that breaths welcomed new life into the tiresome CGI filled, action comedies of the current comic book formula. Focusing more on delivering character development and progression over just building to an overly long-winded climax, this is a thought-provoking and entertaining watch for fans of psychological violence. As an interpretation of the Joker, I found it quite lacking though there is some great foreshadowing for a potential look at Batman from a different perspective down the line. The gritty and dark style suits the world of DC and gives the brand a much-improved identity on the big screen.