Starring: Joaquin Phenix and Robert DeNiro
Directed By: Todd Phillips (Old School, The Hangover)
Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes
Joker is not the first comic book movie to be Rated R.Deadpool has had two movies made, but that hero is foul-mouthed with an excessive level of violence.One of the best movies of 2017 was Logan, a movie about Wolverine. It was a western style film, with comic book style violence.What makes Joker is unique is that it is a comic book movie, this is the origin story of Joker.But it is grounded in a seedy reality.The violence, the dialogue, the characters are not over the top in the way that other R-rated comic book movies have been.
Joaquin Phoenix portrays the Joker this time around.Joker is a character that is just as important as Batman.Any casting decision is picked apart and scrutinized by the internet for months.Phoenix’s casting was not met with the same boos and laughter that Heath Ledger was given over a decade ago.We know what a top flight actor can do with this character.Add in the dark tone of the script, and Phoenix’s real-life well of tragedy to draw from, the potential was there for another award winning performance.
We’ll see if that comes to fruition, but Joker is an excellent movie.You can’t help but compare it to Taxi Driver and the lesser-known (but in my opinion, superior film) King of Comedy from 1982.Both of those Scorcese directed films starred Robert DeNiro, who appears in this movie as a late night talk host in Gotham City.All three films deal with a central character who feels rejected by society.All three films have their main character act out violently in certain ways.Joker is probably a tad derivative of those two older movies, but it doesn’t really matter as you end up being mesmerized by Phoenix’s performance.
Like I said, we’ll get to the scrutiny the movie is receiving in the next segment, but as for the movie by itself, Joker is one of the five best movies of the year so far.There’s never been a comic book movie…like THIS.The tone of the movie from start to finish is unsettling, almost disturbing.You never really get to settle in and enjoy the movie because Joaquin Phoenix is always doing something to throw you off track.
Joker isn’t perfect, the ending is very obvious.That didn’t make it any less frightening though.The film probably thinks it’s a little more profound than it actually is.This isn’t the “cautionary tale that society needs” that it wants to be.It’s just a comic book movie, grounded in reality.The movie DOES feature a young Bruce Wayne, and a Young Bruce Wayne always leads to the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents.If I never saw that scene in a movie again, it would be too soon.DIRECTORS: STOP PUTTING THE DEATH OF THE WAYNE FAMILY IN YOUR MOVIE!WE GET IT! Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in cold blood in an alley.We get it.It was totally unnecessary here.Almost felt like the studio saw the finished film, and told the director.“You should put a Batman reference in here.”
Director Todd Phillips is going to get a lot of praise from me, because this is the guy that directed Old School and The Hangover trilogy.Neither of those have been confused with “high art”.This is a huge jump for a man who has apparently stopped directing comedies.Interested to see what he can do next.
A great supporting cast is highlighted by Robert DeNiro.You know it’s a good performance when a guy as iconic as DeNiro is in a role, and you forget that it’s Robert DeNiro.I think the field is a little too tough for DeNiro to work his way into the Best Supporting Actor category here, but it sounds like he’ll make up for that with The Irishman next month.So that’s a push.Frances Conroy is excellent as Joker’s mother.You might remember her from Six Feet Under among other roles.I don’t think she was in the film enough to get award recognition, but I’d like to see it.
On a scale of “See It/Stream It/Skip it” – See It – Joker is sensational.A treat for comic book fans and non-comic book fans alike.There’s no other movies connected to this one, so it stands alone as one of the better entries in the 80 history of Batman and all comic book movies.
If you liked Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, or The Dark Knight you might enjoy Joker.
4 out of 5 stars for Joker.It will challenge you as a viewer.It is occasionally ambiguous.It might even intimidate you.But the performances are rewarding for Joker, which acts as the antithesis of the Marvel Universe.Doubling down on the dark tone set forth in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, and reaping the rewards.