For fans of the Batman universe and the infamous Gotham City villain, Oct. 3 brought the release of “Joker.” Set in the 80’s during a peak of crime in the city, the film tells the origin story of the mentally ill Arthur Fleck, soon to become Gotham’s worst nightmare: The Joker.
While most premiere attendees were die-hard fans of the universe, I am fairly uneducated with the Batman comics and films. However, I would follow Joaquin Phoenix to the end of the world, so of course I was intrigued.
After fairly pretty negative reviews online, including a score of 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, I was suddenly more hesitant about spending the money to see this on opening night.
But boy, oh boy, am I so glad that I did. (Editor’s note: actually, my friend paid for me so that he would have someone to go with. Thanks, Jake.)
“Joker” centers around the horribly miserable life of an already mentally ill man, explaining the events and tragedies that would eventually start his murderous rampage.
While I was initially nervous about the romanticization of mental illness, the film explored the idea of society ignoring its members who need it the most. Although it’s unfair to wholly blame society for the negative actions of others, the film sheds light on the important issue of showing love and care for those who feel abandoned. Thus, “Joker” very successfully allows the audience to feel sympathy for an otherwise hated villain, while still not condoning his actions.
However, the film would not have been anything special without Phoenix’s performance. After losing a substantial amount of weight, Phoenix fully transformed physically and mentally for the role. His passionate portrayal was devastating and heartbreaking in the best way possible.
With that in mind, “Joker” is not for the faint of heart.
While not as overly gory and violent as many predicted, the film is extremely upsetting. Most of this is due to Phoenix’s incredible transformation, but it’s important to know that the film deals with very heavy topics of depression, abuse and suicide. There are also a couple of scenes with graphic violence. While it doesn’t feel glorified, it is still rather shocking.
Cinematically speaking, “Joker” is beautiful. The cinematography and lighting choices are excellent, all contributing to the film’s themes and messages. I was also very surprised to absolutely love the score. It was dramatic, yet simple. Pleasant, yet eerie.
Besides a few timeline issues and small plot holes, “Joker” was wonderful. It was a great introduction to the spooky season, and an interesting and painful look into the life of someone horribly hurt.
While the film might not be for everyone, if you’re looking for a wickedly good performance, deep commentary about our treatment of the mentally ill and connections to the expansive Batman universe, this is a movie worth seeing on the big screen.
Story by: Amanda Walton
Photos Courtesy of IMDB