Todd Phillips, the filmmaker, is unable to distinguish between ambiguity and ambivalence.
Joker’s conclusion is supposed to be a joke on the viewers. Just recently, the complete Joker background tale was delivered to us viewers. We have observed the way Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck developed from a mentally sick street clown to the accidental instigator of a revolution against Gotham City’s affluent class. In various parts of the narrative, Arthur is depicted as a distressed man who was never given the proper affection and assistance from his mom, his colleagues, his neighbors, or the whole community at large. As the movie reaches its climax, irate Gotham residents sporting Joker masks start to wreck the city. One of these riots ends up killing Thomas and Martha Wayne, paving the path for Bruce Wayne to transform into Batman in the future. What a turn of events that Batman was created as a result of Joker’s action, instead of the other way round.
Then it becomes apparent that it is only a tale Arthur Fleck is telling a psychiatrist while being detained in a psychiatric hospital. The movie closes with Arthur being pursued through the asylum’s corridors after killing the psychiatrist, as is indicated by the bloodstains caused by his footprints. Which is it then? Is the movie the real narrative behind the Joker’s beginnings, or is it just a different tale concocted by a disturbed mind? The clarification is that since Phillips wants to take advantage of both options, it doesn’t actually matter.
As I mentioned in my complete assessment, Joker seeks praise for raising important topics but has no idea how to handle them. It will throw out subjects such as civil disorders and mental disease and afterwards, merely allow them to persist. It doesn’t address such issues since doing so would include taking a position, and should the movie have a position, the character of Joker couldn’t be chaotic and pessimistic. Even so, the movie struggles to clarify the Joker’s past without attempting to give any of the revelations a more insightful and meaningful context. For instance, we find out that Arthur’s mom mistreated him, then he murders her. There are no insightful messages about family violence; it’s only one horrific event that triggers another. I suppose that if you’re horrified, then the film must have succeeded.
The movie touches its climax at the finale, when Phillips essentially divided his film into 2 parts since he’s unable to decide what truly matters in the plot. Arthur’s own narrative touches on a significant problem, yet we won’t really examine that problem since that would prove we care about something. Because neither tales can be genuine, they negate one another and give the movie a shrug instead of an intriguing uncertainty.
Todd Phillips would have made a really intriguing movie if he had just completed the initial narrative aspect. Regardless of all of its flaws, the original narrative presents an intriguing dark reflection of Batman’s story in which the Joker claims that the distinction between good and evil is surprisingly flimsy. Why shouldn’t the Joker serve as an example for the citizens of Gotham while Batman’s able to? Aren’t the public more prone to reflect on somebody who depicts chaos and brutality rather than someone who stands for justice and honor when the circumstances go out of control? The Joker being held accountable for the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents as the finishing touch is a fantastic way to flip the whole mythos on its head. If the movie’s director wanted to reinvent the superhero film genre, then this must be a good way to do it by treating the bad guy’s initial narrative as though he were a superhero.
Phillips, however, lacks the required commitment to stand by his beliefs, thus at the final moment, he retreats and mutters, “Well, perhaps this is all a plot told by Arthur Fleck and nothing has really occurred.” The concise picture of Joker hitting his head on the glass in the psychiatric hospital and the revelation that his next-door neighbor, Zazie Beetz’s Sophie was never actually his love interest are 2 hints that Arthur is an unreliable storyteller. The ultimate sequence, however, comes off as a huge cop out and eventually makes no sense since the movie is never established to allow Arthur to become our storyteller, right from the beginning.
If the whole film, or only certain scenes, are just the imaginations of Arthur Fleck, he must be granted access to information that he wasn’t otherwise capable of knowing, most remarkably the background of Batman. You may say that Joker only realizes that Thomas Wayne brought his family through an alley and were killed right next to their child, yet one more time, Joker is a movie that’s unable to reconcile chaotic nihilism with a worthwhile conclusion. Either Arthur still cares about Thomas Wayne and has to incorporate this form of retribution in the novel, or it was merely a coincidence that Joker’s actions sent Gotham to a full-blown state of insanity. In any case, Scott Silver and Todd Phillips are attempting to have their cake and consume it as well. “The Joker must account for the origin of Batman,” yet also “well none of that really matters.”
What purpose does the closing scene serve in making you wonder about all that has come before? The plot’s course is erratic; as a result, there are times when Joker is sympathetic and other times when he is a monster; thus merely giving us a turn does not cause us to reconsider everything that happened previously. If Arthur is in fact the Joker and isn’t just a mentally ill patient preoccupied with deadly clowns, the closing scene only serves to reinforce what we already knew: the Joker is unreliable. One more time, Todd Phillips weakens his story with a lack of depth and follow-through, failing to better engage the viewer. Should you want to create a film on the way Joker is a shadowy version of Batman, just do it.