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‘Joker’: When The Movie Comes Up Short Of Its Potential



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… though Joaquin Phoenix gives a solid performance.

As Heath Ledger’s Joker states in The Dark Knight, “As you know, madness is like gravity…all it takes is a little push.” Meanwhile, in Todd Phillip’s Joker, insanity fills the capacity it is contained in just as a gas. Yet it is also short of substance, flimsy and airy. Together with Joaquin Phoenix’s captivating and committed performance, the film’s craft, including its photography, soundtrack, and production design, is exceptional. Phillips has produced a striking, evocative interpretation of Gotham, yet he hasn’t added anything noteworthy to it. Rather than that, he chooses to focus on a number of contentious subjects, including mental health, wealth disparity, and celebrity infatuation, leaving the film strangely inert as a result. It’s a film that attempts to appear tough, yet despite having the conventions of a typical superhero origin narrative, it never forces its viewers to watch anything inconvenient. The more information we discover about Joker, the less intriguing he is, and the less urgent the story becomes.

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In a late 1970s/early 1980s Gotham that resembles NYC at the same period, Arthur Fleck, a clown-for-hire, who, upon being anxious or disturbed, is made to laugh uncontrollably because his brain processes emotional pain as laughing, a laughter that sounds similar to crying. After enduring humiliations such as being fired from his occupation, getting bullied, and discovering the truth about his mom (Francis Conroy), the little of Arthur’s sanity left begins to fade away as he sets on sporting the appearance of the well-known supervillain, The Joker.

The film continuously tries to be both a gritty urban insanity narrative and a dependable comic book tale. The moment the genesis narrative of the Joker and its examination of insanity match Batman’s beginnings, the movie is at its most fascinating. We’re all the heroes of our own stories, thus what’s the reason that sporting a mask and engaging in violent deeds makes Joker a bad guy and Batman a good guy? Joker would become the hero of this narrative if it were told from his point of view, right? The idea that Batman and Joker are 2 sides of the same coin is interesting, yet it doesn’t actually work out because Batman is traumatized, rather than “mad,” while Joker works overtime to conflate the two. That’s a little disgusting, yet it relates to a film that wants both possible benefits instead of choosing one. Either lunacy is able to be clarified with a correct medical background and Arthur is just able to continue taking his medication, as shown in the film, or it can be described as some indescribable concept that pervades society and people, such as an untreatable disease.

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This equivocation seriously detriments the film since Joker simply dons the garb of a Martin Scorsese production, sporting clothes like The King of Comedy or Taxi Driver, yet lacking the guts to truly carry any analysis and assessment to its logical ending, rather than employing a comic book-stimulated narrative to follow some deep or challenging plans. For instance, consider the slowly deteriorating city of Gotham, and a brutal event engaged by the Joke sparks a wave of rioting, however, for what reason? The movie lacks the resources to make a thorough examination of wealth disparity or to define precisely what is “wrong” in the community besides the suggestion that we invest more resources and time in our mental health care service. Although it claims to have depth, if you’re not into it, you’ll find it’s just a joke, like all jokes from the Joker.

Although I assume it’s likely, I don’t think brutal sociopathy will start with one of Todd Phillips’ films, despite some people’s concerns that this adoration of the Joker and granting him a superhero background will motivate violent copycats. Of course, movies can pose an impact on our emotions both positively and negatively, yet the real kicker is that Joker is very much a non-issue. It has no guts or the intelligence to suggest anything other than that Joker is the protagonist of his own tale, and I guess it’s just as likely to rile up certain people as anything else. On the contrary, it’s a little harsh towards mental illness, which was used as a handy crutch for Arthur’s story arc without saying much more than, “Hey, the general public, let’s not be terrible to one another!”

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It’s really astonishing that Joker performs even half as well as it does when you take into account these significant flaws in the subtext and plot. It is mainly because Joaquin Phoenix is simply among the best actors of his generation. We have been able to watch his performances as Jesus and the Joker in the same year, in which he remains solid in both roles. Knowing that the contrast between his and Heath Ledger’s Academy Award-winning work are unavoidable, Phoenix puts all of his efforts into this role, without detracting from Ledger’s performance. Phoenix gives in all his mind into the character embodiment that the Joker presents to viewers. I was concerned that this might become an instance of “method acting,” yet he gives this rendition of the character of Joker a lot of fine distinction and poignancy, making it feel valuable even though the tale itself isn’t.

Even if Phillips overuses slow push-ins or pull-backs on Arthur’ skeletal physique, I still admire the film’s aesthetic. The movie clearly draws motivation from Scorsese, and if you intend to be stimulated, you might as well be stimulated by one of the greatest. Although the movie doesn’t truly have much noteworthy to discuss that decline, Lawrence Sher’s cinematography is consistently stunning, depicting lush panoramas of a city in decay. Furthermore, despite the fact that the movie doesn’t actually have anything to speak about that lunacy, Hildur Gunadóttir’s music is excellent and draws you into the chaos.

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The studio and the crowd have made a shady deal with Joker. Viewers are reluctant to experiment and attempt to do new things. With a lot of things yearning for our awareness, money is tight and leisure time is even lighter. The alternative is Joker, a Martin Scorsese-style film made for viewers who prefer to watch something within the predictable parameters of a comic book tale. Additionally, there is nothing inherently wrong with reading a comic book plot seriously. The problem is that Joker gives the impression that it is an earnest movie by using its appealing Batman IP. Again, Joker doesn’t really have a message, so it makes sense for the reason a studio would feel at ease using it as a tentpole. It doesn’t put anything or anyone to the test, but because it presents itself as a Very Serious Movie, those who watch it must also be Very Serious.

However, neither the studio nor the crowd are actually attempting anything. You Were Never Really Here, which had a broad release in 233 theaters and made $2.5 million during its run, would have drawn viewers looking for a movie featuring a great performance by Joaquin Phoenix as a violent character whose sanity is progressively eroding. Warner Bros. could have created a gritty, dark film about society and madness without using the DC brand, but they are aware that they won’t be able to earn money from it without a pre-existing IP. The most remarkable joke of all is that with Joker, both sides can imagine they’re a part of something brave and daring.

Larry is a contributing writer for KITE MEDIA. Larry is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as Aubtu Today, Digital Trends, Magazine, and many other media outlets.