There is an intentional irony that “Joker” is the least funny comic-book movie to have ever been made.
Todd Philips’s “Joker” follows the psychological descent of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), who suffers from a medical condition that causes him to burst into random fits of uncontrollable laughter. Arthur works as a clown-for-hire while dreaming of a better life as a comedian, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his favorite talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro).
After the Oscar-winning performance of Heath Ledger, the role of the Joker has become somewhat coveted and is held to a higher standard than any other comic-book movie role. Ledger’s unfortunate death shortly after filming “The Dark Knight” left behind some massive clown shoes to fill and Phoenix feels like the first person to comfortably wear them since.
While Ledger’s Joker was an unidentified monster, blowing up hospitals and manipulating politicians, Phoenix’s Joker is a much more human monster. This monster’s name is Arthur, and he lives with his mom and carries a notebook of jokes.
But he still doesn’t feel any less terrifying, because this Joker feels like a real person who does real, bad things.
The impressive $96 million that this movie made on its opening weekend is owed largely to the controversy that surrounded it before and during its release: the police being hired to guard early showings, certain theaters refusing to play the movie, alleged pro-violence messages to the viewers. This is all ridiculous, and in fact, it could be the exact opposite message of what the movie is trying to convey.
Arthur is not an incel hero in this movie; none of his actions are ever portrayed as “good” or “sympathetic.” Any viewer who watches “Joker” will see Arthur as what he is: a loser who does absolutely nothing but fantasize about changing his unfortunate circumstances, then decides that the world is against him and takes his revenge on the people who he decides “deserve it.”
There is quite a lot more discussion to be had about this movie, but in the interest of remaining spoiler-free, I’ll stop myself here.
I’ll end with this: whether you loved or hated it, there hasn’t been a movie like “Joker” in a long time.
Do it some justice and watch the movie before making any judgments, because “Joker” feels like the most different comic-book movie to come out in recent history.