“Joker” is Spectacular, Here’s Why:


The Joker dances wildly in his promotional poster

Image Courtesy of IMDb

The Joker dances wildly in his promotional poster

Michael Finnen, Staff Writer

Over the weekend, I went to see “Joker” with many of my fellow Oratory brothers. I was very excited to see the movie ever since the initial trailer was released, and so I was shocked at the negative media coverage the movie was receiving. Stories about how the movie might incite violence or influence people towards negative actions before the movie even officially released, made me very worried about how I might enjoy it. However, after going to see it for myself, I can emphatically say that “Joker” was spectacular, and I am going to tell you why.

The movie, obviously, depicts the origin story of one of comic books’ most famous villains. Its R rating, along with everything you may have seen about the film pretty much tells you all of the preliminary details you will need to know about it: it will be dark, it will be violent, and it will be chaotic. The Joker serves as the embodiment of total chaos, he follows no rules, nothing is off-limits to him, and there is no low he will not stoop to. This chaotic theme is carried out perfectly through the movie, through the impressive cinematography, and also through the plot. Much of what happens to the Joker happens by coincidence, his murder in self-defense of the three men on the subway inadvertently starts riots of class warfare, with his image of a clown as the figurehead. He tries to become a comedy star, but his condition in which he laughs uncontrollably, as well as him being not very funny to begin with, is what makes him a sensation when people mock him. People may say the movie does not make much sense, or is incoherent, but I would argue that that’s the point. The Joker is not really rational; he does not really make sense, and his appeal and character are based upon being chaotic, shaking things up, and irrationality.

The next aspect of the movie that I thought was done incredibly was the acting. People very fondly remember Heath Ledger’s Dark Knight Joker or perhaps enjoy Jack Nicholson’s original Joker. It can be agreed upon that Jared Leto’s Joker is very much lacking, but it must also be agreed upon that Joaquin Phoenix’s new Joker is an incredible take on the character. Do not be surprised when Phoenix wins awards this year because he did a spectacular job. Not only was he able to capture the Joker’s signature laugh, but he also was able to really sell the insanity of this character. He is also an incredible dancer, and the dance scenes in the movie are some of my favorites, showing great progression in the character over the film as he dances more openly and expressively as the movie continues.

One of the things that differentiates this new Joker from many of the older ones is that this Joker is legitimately mentally ill, having suffered abuse and Stockholm syndrome at the hands of his mother, in which he was attached to radiators and suffered brain trauma. His actual disease is never defined, and he does not remember any of this, but he strangely feels love towards his insane mother, though he kills her when he finds out the truth. Previous Jokers, such as the one portrayed by Heath Ledger, were what I describe as “rationally insane”, in that there was a method to their madness. They were chaotic, but there was a sense of purpose and almost reason in their actions, despite it being nihilistic, meaning that they believe that nothing has meaning. The origin story shows us how the Joker developed his nihilistic worldview. As someone who is mentally ill, the Joker feels isolated and alone, he feels that there is no one to validate his existence, especially when he learns he was adopted by his insane mother and does not even know who his real parents are. This is exemplified in the climax of the film, as the Joker emphatically proclaims, “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like garbage?! You get what you **** deserve!!!” as he shoots his lifelong idol on live television. The film tackles this well, and really leaves it to the audience to determine how they feel about the Joker, as he does do many horrible things. It never patronizes mental illness, it is simply a part of the Joker’s character. It never “glorifies” the Joker, but it leaves a question about those with mental illnesses that cannot be ignored. Even when the Joker is lain, almost Christ-like, on the hood of a car, this is done to him by violent, evil people, showing that he is not a hero of good, but of evil. The Joker is not a character you identify with, but a character that you can study, or even just be entertained by.

“Joker” is a movie that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. If you found yourself questioning “what just happened?” after leaving the theater, you are not alone. Drawing inspiration from movies like Perfect Blue, “Joker” puts the audience right inside the deranged head of the Joker by literally showing us his delusions. There are many scenes which are contradicted by something later on in the movie, most notably revolving around the main female character, Sophie. She is the Joker’s neighbor, who makes awkward conversation with him one day in the elevator, and he can barely respond because of his social ineptitude. However, later on, in the scene directly after the Joker murders the three men, he goes to her apartment and makes out with her. Next, she comes to one of his comedy performances and is with him when his mother is hospitalized. At least, this is what it seems, but when Arthur (the Joker) goes into her apartment one day and she sees him, she is shocked and says, “You’re Arthur, from down the hall, aren’t you?” as if she doesn’t even know him. This clearly proves that all of those scenes involving her were delusions, nothing but fantasy within Arthur’s mind. Not only is this thought-provoking and interesting, but it really adds an air of mystery to the film, leading us to not only question those scenes, but to question whether any scene in the movie was real or nothing but imagination.

The technical aspects of the movie were also done to perfection. The music score was very light at times, and chillingly dark at others. Something I especially noticed were scenes with a lack of music, which added a sinister silence, like a heavy feeling of dread to certain moments. I already mentioned the cinematography, and just from watching the film it is obvious that this was done well. The shots were framed in interesting and appealing ways, and the lighting of many scenes also added another aspect to the tone of each scene.

Overall, what do I think of the movie? Well, I’m sure it is obvious by now, but I love the film. I can overanalyze it to death, but in the end, it was just enjoyable to watch in a dark, creepy way. I urge you, make sure to remember that only a psychopath would ever truly be able to identify in any way with the Joker. Do not let the darkness take away from a truly great, thought-provoking, well crafted, enjoyable movie. 9.7/10 from me (sure, call me biased towards anything involving the Joker), but if you’ve seen the movie then you will understand why I praise this film so highly. In the end, was “Joker” good? I think the answer is very clear…