Why So Serious?
Todd Phillips’ rendition of the Joker is beautifully cast, shot and directed. however, at certain points audiences were left feeling like the film was overtly shallow. The film was extremely interesting but also extremely irresponsible.
Phillips’ Joker is a more realistic embodiment of the super villain, akin to Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight as apposed to Jared Leto’s laughable performance in Suicide Squad.
From a director and producer who made his name in comedy, Phillips’ is an interesting fit for the Joker to say the least. Phillips’ explores the character of Arthur Fleck: a mentally deranged loner with a fledgling career in comedy who is played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film explores trial and troubles of this man in great detail and makes it abhorrently clear that Fleck does not fit in.
The film does an excellent job of building and maintaining tension through beautiful cinematography and Joaquin Phoenix’s incredibly unsettling performance. Cinematographer Lawrence Sher does an incredible job at capturing the essence of Gotham; a drearier and duller relative of twentieth century New York City. The colour pallet for the film is beautifully dark but includes subtle infusions of vibrant colour.
Comparisons to the Joker have been drawn almost immediately. The most notable of all was Taxi Driver, the 1976 production directed by Martin Scorsese.
Taxi Driver is also a film about a loner who snaps under pressures of work, loneliness and mental health. Joker is a nod to that legendary era of cinema and is an audacious attempt at humanising a man as marginalised and deranged as Phoenix’s Joker.
Although deeply serious and entertaining, the film romanticises mental illness, violence and acts of terrorism. It aspires to be synonymous with legendary works of cinema like taxi driver but falls below the mark. Fleck’s character comes across as a bitter and twisted “incel” blaming society as a whole for his hardships and struggles rather than himself or the people who directly wronged him. Taxi Driver’s strength lies in the idea that men have the potential to do evil things, Joker on the other hand suggests that all men, when pushed, will always resort to violence. An extremely negative ideology which in my opinion does not reflect the realism explored in the rest of the production.
Joker is probably the most interesting and intriguing release cinema has seen for a long time but can also be considered the most irresponsible.