Hey gang, Valkor here. Joker, like the Venom film released last year, was one of those films that were long in development and I assumed would never see the light of day. Well, Venom has come and gone. And let me just say that a lot of how I feel about that film, pretty much carries over with DC/WB’s live-action Joker adaptation. Was it really worth the wait? Let’s find out, shall we? Oh, and expect many, many spoilers!
Joker centers on Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a man whom when we see him at the start of the film, is way down on his luck. And it doesn’t get any better from there as the film follows his downward spiral into the darkness. He’s beaten by a bunch of kids, jumped on the train by a drunken threesome but then he kills his attackers (this kick starts his path towards being the Joker), he’s a failed comedian and made fun of on television, he has to take meds that to keep him stable, but then stops taking them, and his mom is crazy. So crazy that she told Arthur that he was the son of Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen). But all of these events (and more) culminate towards Arthur embracing his dark fate and becoming the Joker. After dyeing his hair green and slapping on his clown makeup, he then kicks off his new persona by appearing on his favorite late night talk show starring Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), whom he kills on live television. And from there, the riots happen, Thomas and Martha Wayne are murdered, and the Joker has truly risen. This is pretty much the film in a nutshell. Just a guy, having a shitty life who ultimately snaps and takes on this killer clown persona.
Personally, I think I would have enjoyed the film more had there been a Batman presence, either he’s just starting out or he’s working from the shadows, but you don’t get to see him; We, the viewer knows he’s there, but to the world of Gotham he’s more of an urban myth. And I know that this film is one of many Joker origin stories, but I’d rather a story that was adapted from the comics such as “The Killing Joke”. Honestly, I feel that it would have been a better and more entertaining story to watch rather than what we have now. That’s not to say I disliked Joker. I just felt it could have and should have been something more.
While I may not be the film’s biggest fan, I still walked away with a few positive words for Joker. First up, I “liked” the story, which I didn’t think it was terrible as a Joker origin film. It’s not entirely unique, but to get the point across of the Joker’s origins, the film does a decent job of it without the use of Batman to carry any of the weight. I loved the recreation of the 70s, and I’m not just saying that because they used a piece of my city (Jersey City, NJ) to do so. But the look feels authentic, and it gives Gotham that dark and gritty feel that the film deserves. Finally, I got a kick out of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Granted Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson, and even Mark Hamill will rank as my all-time favorites. However, Phoenix’s take on the character was truly something to behold. My dude really embraced the character, making you almost feel sorry for all that Arthur had to endure. But knowing the sadistic criminal he will eventually become, you can’t entirely root for him either. In the end, go see Joker, the film isn’t all that bad as I walked away thinking it was fairly decent but it could have so much better.
I’ve already addressed my main concern of the film with there not being a Batman presence. With that being said, they could have taken out the entire Wayne subplot. For instance, we didn’t need all that with the mom, hoping that Thomas Wayne would come to save them because she used to work for him. Well, maybe that part is OK, but Thomas Wayne, much like if Batman were in the film, could have been more of a background character that people talked about rather than we, the viewer, actually seeing him. We didn’t need the Bruce/Arthur confrontation at Wayne manor and we definitely didn’t need to see the Wayne death at the end. I hated that part the most because the Wayne’s getting killed because they were mixed in with the riots? Ugh! No! Just no!
Joker is currently making its theatrical run, so if you haven’t seen it, I’d say go check it out. But I’d like to point out that I’m a huge fan of Batman and many of his rogue gallery, which includes The Joker; So I went in with some seriously high expectations. I didn’t walk away hating the film, but I wanted something more than what they presented. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I will meet Joker halfway and give it a 2.5.