Todd Phillips’s “Joker” is one of the most polarizing films of the year, digging up the brutal, sinister past of Batman’s greatest nemesis. The thriller follows a brief period in Arthur Fleck’s life before he dons the title of the Joker, the infamous Batman villain.
Fleck yearns for recognition and adoration because he feels his purpose in life is to bring joy to other people. He works as an advertising clown for a closing convenience store and desperately wants to make an appearance on Gotham’s late-night talk show as a recurring stand-up comic. Unfortunately, his mental illness causes him to miss social cues and triggers him to laugh hysterically in inappropriate situations.
Overall, this movie highlights one key theme: villains are not born, they’re created. Fleck suffered from extreme child abuse and later learned he was adopted. He was also fired from his job, publicly humiliated on television and physically brutalized on multiple occasions. Beaten downtime and time again, Fleck has no choice but to become the Joker.
One might argue the villains of the story are the people who denied Fleck’s basic human dignity. Others might argue that regardless of the circumstances, the choice of right and wrong is quite clear. By killing three crucial people of his life, Fleck definitely made the wrong choice. But the movie forces the viewer to think about why he made those choices.
“Joker,” while intriguing, is a movie seen once and understood. Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the Joker, and Todd Philips, the director, develop the character in a predictable yet memorable way.
Considering the Joker is an iconic villain, the audience walks into the theater expecting a story of his origins. Instead, the movie shows a sad, painful process, filling the viewer with empathy for the villain.
This movie is a sympathetic story for someone who turns his tragedy onto others, going with the stigma in Hollywood that villains have feelings too. One of the best parts of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in “The Dark Knight” was the mystery Ledger brought to the character; the audience didn’t know why he was evil, he just was.
All in all, “Joker” is a film that sparks numerous trains of thought around mental health and basic morality. Although predictable, Phoenix’s chilling performance makes up for a predictable plot. I would give this movie an 8.25/10.