“Joker” is no joke

Controversy surrounding D.C’s acclaimed installment


Photo credit to Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros

Joaquin Phoenix delivering his stellar performance as Arthur Fleck

by Sonali Menon, Online Editor

In April, hype began to stir over the new Joker movie trailer, which depicts the backstory of the beloved, evil jokester of the Batman franchise. Since its release on October 4th, it has earned more than a quarter of a billion dollars, making it an instant box office hit. 

However, F.B.I warnings over the risk of the film’s depiction of gun violence overshadowed fans’ excitement. This concern, coupled with criticism over the movie’s perceived glamorization of “incel” behavior and controversial character, has led to online debates over the political merit of the film. 

 Nonetheless, the slew of controversies over the film has not stopped it from achieving international success. 

  “Joker” follows the story of failed comic Arthur Fleck’s descent into madness as he struggles with isolation and abuse in the mysterious underbelly of Gotham City. While the story deals with serious issues such as mental illness, abuse, and violence, it does also offer a unique experience. There is genuinely no other movie like it out right now. If you are not comfortable with witnessing graphic violence you may want to skip this one. 

  D.C. films created the “Joker” movie in an attempt to move away from the shared universe model of its rival, Marvel. Therefore, allowing director Todd Phillips’ freedom to create a darker version of the iconic villain. 

Phillips, who is no stranger to cinematic success as he is most well-known for directing “The Hangover” series and  Academy Award-winning “A Star is Born,” is suspected to be in the running for another Oscar nomination for “Joker.” 

 Phillips’ directorial talent is present through beautiful shot sequences displaying the melancholy tone of Fleck’s descent into madness. The use of off-angle shots — executed by cinematographer Lawrence Sher who has previously worked with Phillips on “The Hangover” — creates an unnerving tone that builds anticipation within the audience. The editing also contributes to the tone as it uses a dark, cool-toned filer that reflects the mood of Gotham City that has been depicted in previous “Batman” films. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for the film further enhances the mood by incorporating eerie orchestral works that make viewers’ skin crawl. 

The film’s mass success and acclaim can also be contributed to Joaquin Phoenix’s incredibly heartfelt and, at times, jarring performance. Similar to other actors who have taken on the role of Joker, such as Heath Ledger and Jared Leto, Phoenix is a method actor — a technique used by actors to find a deep emotional connection with a character, thereby immersing themselves in the role — and lost a significant amount of weight for the role. 

His commitment to portraying Fleck’s character is evident in his performance as the audience gets pulled into the story of Arthur’s transformation into the Joker. Phoneix’s transformation into the role is completed by the makeup department’s rendition of the iconic clown makeup and the costume department’s modern take on the Joker’s colorful garb. 

  In the movie, Fleck is a comedian who is, frankly, not too great at his job. His jokes leave the room dead silent and his odd behavior makes him the victim of both physical and verbal abuse by strangers and onlookers. Through the mental anguish he accumulated throughout his life, he takes on the persona of the Joker and completes the role with his signature, uncontrollable maniac laughter. Phoneix’s execution of this role allows the audience to witness the depths of his character’s psychosis and the irony in his increased self-respect as a result of a loss of touch with reality. 

“Joker” does have a large amount of violence for shock value, adding to the controversy of the film, but if you enjoy thriller movies like the “John Wick” films, then you will definitely like this one. The film’s runtime is quite long, clocking in at two hours, and this along with the jarring plot can make some audience members uncomfortable. Nonetheless, “Joker” offers an incredible movie-going experience.