It took me a strangely long amount of time to actually getting around to seeing Joker despite being ridiculously excited for it. I am pleased to say I avoided spoilers and such and went in not really knowing what to expect. The thing is, I was never really that excited for this film when it was first announced. The reason the Joker in my eyes is one of the best villains is because we as an audience, and the characters that share his world know next to nothing about him except for the atrocities for which he is responsible. However with the more information that came out about the flick in the months leading up to its release, the more intrigued I became. At the end of the day, When an adaptation of something I already love is made, why would i complain? I’m getting more of the thing I adore! After seeing it tonight I am glad that I didn’t just write it off. So buckle up kids, I’ve got a lot to say this time.
Spoiler warning! If you don’t want to know any specifics about the film, thank you for coming but you should probably leave, CAUSE I’M GONNA SPOIL SOME STUFF!
This tale of a mans descent into madness is about as thought provoking as it is intense, as a result I have quite a few points I would like to cover. So let’s split it up into chunks shall we? Some bits may be quite long so feel free to scroll through and browse the headings so you can skip anything that doesn’t interest you. Lets start with…
Right from the first moment that we met Arthur Fleck I found myself feeling sorry for him. This man is trying his best to make his way in the world and not get any unnecessary attention along the way if he can help it. Yet somehow luck always seems to play against him.
In our first scene with Arthur we see him attacked at work for no apparent reason. This has huge ramifications as it leads to his acceptance of a firearm for protection and this eventually results in him losing his job. We also learn that Arthur has grown up without a father and had to care for his mother for most of his life, she seems to be one of the only things in the world that bring him any comfort. Like any other person he also has a dream, he wants to become a comedian, a star of the stage, like his idol Murray Franklin (a host of a show similar to Americas “late” shows). When a chance finally presents itself for Arthur to try out his comedy on the stage he snatches it up. But even this victory is bitter sweet. When he steps on stage his pathological laughing condition takes over which makes him unable to speak and instead just laugh against his own wishes; he is plagued by this condition throughout the duration of the film and it often gets him into trouble. He does however manage to get control of the laughter and have what seems to be a rather successful gig. Of course when things just start to look up for Arthur it all comes crumbling back down as his mum is rushed to hospital and his hero mocks him on live TV. There is also the heartache we see when he is desperately searching for his father who he thinks to be none other than Thomas Wayne.
All of these things put together make it hard not to feel for Arthur. It seems like the world is out to get him, most of the things that torment him are out of his control and this leaves him helpless. Why this empathy we feel for Arthur is so important in my eyes is because it makes the transition into Joker so much more powerful as he is such a diabolical and unlikable person but also it makes us actually understand why and how he has been driven to these extremes. We see a man fall apart and unfortunately he glues himself back together in the wrong way and quite frankly, its sad to see. Had this film not been titled “Joker” then I would have no expectations for him to turn into a murderous clown. I instead would probably be wanting to see him come out on top after all l the hardships he has faced, see the little man rise up above the crowd. Ultimately, seeing him suffer is what enables us to see the human side to a character that we already have a distinct image of built up in our heads. For some, all this tragedy actually allows us to connect to him.
All a lie?
During the film we discover that Arthur has been imagining a whole relationship with one of his neighbours that in fact barely knows his name. From this we come to realise that Arthur’s cuts run a lot deeper than first expected. As a result we may find ourselves questioning other plot points of the film and how much truth they hold. The fact that it gets your brain ticking in this way is great because it means everybody could see whatever bits they like as being true and this allows for different people having completely different experiences with the film.
The biggest question of truth for me comes from the last scene. Arthur has been captured after all the problems he has caused and we see him having a meeting with a woman in a white cell. However we had seen a very similar cell earlier in the film.
During one of the first scenes we see Arthur talking to his support worker for after he had left Arkham hospital. We find out he has only been out for three weeks. It is then that there is a flashback that only lasts a second of Arthur in a white cell, smashing his head against the little window in the door to the cell. So is there the chance he never even left the cell? That he was so delusional that he created this whole story whilst locked up? Quite possibly, a bit of evidence for this has been doing the rounds online recently. A beedy eyed viewer realised that all the clocks that appear in the background at any point during the film all read the same time. What reason could there be for time not passing at all?
At the moment this film is getting very mixed reviews, some are loving it whilst others don’t understand the hype at all, which is fair enough but one thing I don’t think can be argued is the quality of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. If the actor wasn’t convincing as the Joker during this film, the picture would have failed. But Joaquin delivers a compelling performance, rich with anguish and solitude. You believe this character is real. My two favourite things about his deliverance of the role is the genuine pain in Arthur’s face when he laughs but doesn’t want to and how he always runs with his feet up in the air as though he is still trying to not trip over his clown shoes despite not actually wearing them. The performance is helped along by the incredible set design. The first exterior shot we see is breathtaking, it really looks like 80’s New York, there is so much detail packed into it, as the film progresses you forget its all fake and you just go along not noticing, being fully immersed in this echo of Gotham’s past. One setting is utilised very well, the stairs leading to Arthur’s apartment.
This set of stairs is used frequently throughout the film by Arthur. At the end of every terrible day he has, he climbs the long dreary staircase that takes him home. It’s always dirty looking with dark skies and a positively dismal atmosphere. However once Arthur truly becomes the Joker this changes, for the first time we see him coming down the staircase, walking away from his home, leaving himself behind and truly stepping into the persona of the Joker. This is echoed not only by the fact that he gleefully dances down the stairs but that the sun is out, everything is reflecting the light and the whole scene seems happier. This set of stairs represents how far Arthur has come, it represents him leaving his old life behind, it represents him becoming his true self.
In a previous post I talked about The Killing Joke and how the running theme is that it only takes one bad day to send a man into madness. I feel like Joker shows this too. At one point he even says to his neighbour that he believes to be his girlfriend that he has just had a very bad day which is why he has decided to end it by breaking into her apartment. I saw this as the cracking point, after this his actions were a lot more extreme. I would say it’s not quite as simple as having one bad day though, Arthur was already deeply damaged so it was a shorter fall off the wagon. When the foundations are that cracked, it wont take much to make the structure shatter. The film also draws inspiration from The Killing Joke in that Arthur’s dream is to be a stand up comedian just like the joker in the graphic novel.
The Joker we don’t meet
Unsurprisingly Bruce Wayne makes an appearance in the film, only thing is, he is a little boy and his parents are still alive. Not to worry though, we get to see Thomas and Martha bite the bullet again! oh joy! The main significance of Bruce being this young is the huge age difference between him and Joker, by the time Bruce dons the cowl, The Joker will be an old man. So what if he isn’t THE Joker but A Joker instead. Perhaps when Arthur is locked up that really is the end of his story. If this is the case then it looks like Batman and The Joker were born on the same night. On the night that Bruce’s parents were gunned down, perhaps a little boy was caught in the clown riots, perhaps he saw unspeakable things, perhaps they would influence him for the rest of his life, perhaps Arthur Fleck is this young boy’s hero. This would mean that he could develop more Joker like qualities, such as his ability to plan intricate schemes to best the bat. Because Arthur is quite unlike the comic book prince of crime, he gets by on mere luck rather than his clever mind, he has next to no fighting ability yet the Joker from the comics routinely survives getting pummelled by Batman and obviously Arthur is far to emotional. All these things could be character traits of the young man he inspires that night. Hell maybe he gets weird tattoos and becomes Jared Leto.
Joker is an intense film that compellingly shows the account of one mans fall into madness. Joaquin Phoenix does an incredible job at delivering the performance and keeps you on the edge of your seat during the more unpredictable moments. A lot of people are claiming that it has changed the superhero genre but I disagree. This film isn’t in the superhero genre but instead fits more into a crime thriller category. What it does do however is prove that taking comic books as source material doesn’t mean it has to be a typical superhero film but can instead lean into different genres. If you’re making something enjoyable and different who cares if it strays from the source material. It’s better to make something new exciting than a carbon copy of the original pages. Hopefully this will encourage more genre influenced comic book movies, Dr Strange as a horror, Defenders in a gangster flick or Black Cat and Spider-Man in a rom com. Ultimately i think this film was great and would happily watch it another ten times. If you took off the face paint, removed the names of Gotham and the Waynes, this film would still be great. So to anybody who has not yet seen it (bit weird of you to read after the massive spoiler warning) get yourself down the cinema and prepare for an intense time.
thank you all for reading.
see ya later.
p.s That’s right ladies and gentlemen this film got the rating of watch ten more times rather than never again but what’s this? Another rating system? yep i’m also going to be giving things a spiciness rating from now on and this first one was HOT HOT HOT.