So, the lights went down and the peanut M&M’s were opened. Dr Pepper by my side and a nervous anticipation for the next 2 hours. I must admit from the off that I’m a fan of DC movies, I prefer their darker grittier edge over Marvels bright colours and jokes. I quite liked Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, despite not really favouring Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman. But this is a film about the origins of the Joker, surely the greatest villain character in the whole of comic book history? The trailers lead me to believe it would be dark, and an intense sensory plummet into mental decline, with plenty of violent undertones - but will it be any good?
Okay, there’s no point drawing my verdict out, this film is amazing. I was blown away by pretty much everything. Joaquin Phoenix (Her 2013, Walk the Line 2005) who plays Arthur Fleck/Joker gives a masterclass in acting and is surely in contention for much recognition and award. The writing by Todd Phillips (The Hangover 2009) and Scott Silver (8 Mile 2002) is great and drip feeds Fleck’s life as he is slowly pushed to darker and darker places. He is plagued by feelings of obscurity and inconsequence, toying with the idea of suicide, he eventually finds some solace when almost accidental acts change people’s opinion of him. People begin to take notice of his embittered and desperate actions. In a world ruled by the rich, there’s a need for the common person to have a voice, and Arthur Fleck becomes a driving part of that movement. Robert De Niro (Raging Bull 1980, Taxi Driver 1976) plays chat show host Murray Franklin, and is a fine, if somewhat brief compliment to Phoenix’s emotional performance.
From the start I felt on edge and a little uncomfortable. As the film went on, I literally felt like anything could happen, and when it does, my god it tore at my sensibilities. Okay no spoilers, but there are some disturbing scenes in this film and a fair bit of violence, its no John Wick, but the violence is so intense and explosive against the onslaught of abuse Fleck is absorbing, that it can sometimes take you by surprise. We get to see a young Bruce Wayne and a rather unpleasant Thomas Wayne, but despite the connections to Batman, there’s not a superhero in sight. However, there are definitely some scenes that DC fans will appreciate.
This film was hard-hitting and brilliantly executed. A fine showcase performance by Phoenix. But the question I’m sure you want answering is how he compares to Heath Ledger’s (The Dark Knight 2008) Joker. My answer would be a cop out, look a good performance is a good performance. The Joker’s are different and yet so similar. This is the first time I’ve seen a live action film give us so much Joker and it was awesome. Ledger or Phoenix? Well I’ll let you decide.
My opinion is Joker is well worth your money to see on the big screen.
FYI - No point hanging around for post credit scenes because there aren’t any, so you are free to grab your coat and leave soon as 'the end' appears. This is a film with a clear if exaggerated message about society and mental health. Probably the best film I’ve seen this year or in fact for many years. If there was one complaint it was the woman sat in front of me with the stupid bloody big bun on her head, and the guy with tiny bladder syndrome. Sometimes people just make you wanna burn the city down and start a riot.
9.5 out of 10
Director Todd Phillips
Written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver