6 Thoughts on Joker
I am 100% in favor of DC Comics and Warner Bros. breaking away from the Marvel Moviemaking Mold and going in their own direction. I’m all in favor of them doing stand alone, psychological movies or stand alone comedies or stand alone superhero movies. As long as they keep putting out good, solid movies, I’ll probably be happy. But considering that it’s DC and Warner Bros., there’s always the chance they’ll put out a movie I don’t like — which brings us to Joker.
Movie Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
My movie reviews are 100% subjective. I’m not a film critic. I didn’t study film. I couldn’t tell you anything about cinematography and how it effects whatever. I watch movies to be entertained and enjoy a good story and performances. That’s how I judge movies, and it’s entirely on me. And with that in mind, Joker is not my kind of movie. It’s not what I’m looking for, it’s not something I enjoyed. I just didn’t like Joker, but I can recognize that it was a well-made film that successfully gets its message across.
Join me after the jump for my full thoughts on why I didn’t like it, but still understand it!
6. I didn’t care for it
Joker just isn’t my kind of movie. That is an entirely subjective appraisal of the film, I know that. But this is an entirely subjective blog about my thoughts on things. So yeah, I didn’t care for it. I didn’t particularly enjoy watching the film. I didn’t like how dark and ugly it was. I didn’t care for the overall message, even if it was right on the money sometimes when it came to the treatment of the mentally ill. I didn’t like the glorification of the violence. I didn’t care about the intense character study. None of this was for me. It’s dark and ugly and misanthropic, with a focus on glorifying the Joker in the most pretentious, artsy-fartsy way possible.
Also, I should note, I’ve never seen Taxi Driver and only saw The King of Comedy years ago, so I can’t really comment on the similarities between Joker and these old Martin Scorsese movies. Better film critics than me have said all that needs to be said.
There were some parts I liked, I suppose. Once Arthur Fleck finally became the Joker in the end, the movie had a bit more energy to it. The movie was noticeably more lively. And I liked that gag where Gary, the little person, couldn’t unlock the door to get away from the murder scene, and how Arthur let him go. I like it when villains can show some degree of humanity. But other than those two things, I just didn’t care for Joker.
5. A well-made, well-acted movie
Just because I didn’t care for the movie doesn’t mean I can’t recognize it as well-made, or recognize Joaquin Phoenix giving the role his all. Everything looks good. The filming is nice, the horror is well-crafted, and it’s probably fully intentionally how dark and ugly the movies is, how twisted and foul it seems. And Phoenix goes the extra mile to really get into this character, to really make him creepy and twisted and pathetic and sometimes sympathetic. It’s a very physical and emotional performance, so good for him.
I also understand and applaud the message of the movie. A lot of people have been saying that the movie has nothing to say, but I disagree. Joker is about how society fails the mentally ill, whether through cutting funding to social services or just everyday jerks being mean to people with mental illness. All of this is really true about society, and Joker shines a nice mirror up to these failures of the real world. So Joker definitely gets its message across. And it does a fine job tracking Arthur Fleck’s personal journey. He’s mentally ill and suffers from a childhood of abuse, but he slowly begins to let go and murder, and that eventually transforms him into the Joker, where he’s finally free. It’s very, very noticeable that he no longer suffers from laughing fits once he’s become the Joker in the final act.
I get the symbolism with the staircase. I wanted to complain that Fleck’s storyline and the riot storyline don’t really tie together until he stumbles backwards into the riot at the very end. But now that I give it some thought, I realize that Arthur thinks the riots are for him. It’s another one of his delusions. He doesn’t see people protesting the 1%. He sees people supporting his clown persona. And that’s a nice connection for the two storylines.
The movie is well-made. There are lots of bits and pieces throughout that fit together nicely. I can recognize this. I just didn’t enjoy the movie.
4. I don’t like it’s politics
I don’t really want to touch on the politics of the film, because I am by no means an expert and I’m just not in the mood to dive into it. But I would like to mention that, yeah, I think this movie could be misinterpreted by the ugliest among us as some sort of call-to-arms for incels and their ilk to rise up and be the Joker they want to be. I don’t think the movie itself intends to deliver this message, I just think these sorts of people are idiots who will read into the movie what they want. Just like how idiots misinterpreted Fight Club or similar movies. They’re insecure idiots. Misinterpreting the world is their whole thing.
I’m also bothered by the idea that strong black women represent the various roadblocks in Arthur’s life. A black woman represents social services failing him. A black woman is the therapist at the end in Arkham. And a black woman is the object of his sexual desire, whom he can’t have. Coupled with the whole ‘inspiring incels’ idea, this is a really bad look for the movie in the day and age of insecure, disenfranchised, white male domestic terrorists causing most of the mass shootings. To willfully ignore these parts of the movie is just lying to yourself.
Don’t @ me.
3. I no longer care about alternate origin stuff
Once upon a time I might have cared. And it depends on what’s being changed in the alternate origin. But it doesn’t bother me that Joker’s story in this movie is almost entirely unrecognizable from the comics. It doesn’t bother me that this movie gives Joker a solid, straight forward origin instead of leaving it mysterious (or using one of the comic origins). And it doesn’t bother me that the Joker wears makeup instead of being tossed into a vat of chemicals and having his skin bleached. The movie stays true to Joker as a crazy, murderous clown. I wish he’d been a bit more clever or smarter, but that doesn’t really matter for this origin story. The changes make sense, they work for this version of the character and the story being told, and that’s good enough for me.
Likewise, the new/similar origin for Batman works fine for me. Doesn’t bother me at all. Though I personally wish they hadn’t included the falling pearls. I get that it worked really well in that one comic ages ago, but it’s getting old.
2. DC and Marvel movies can both be good
I don’t really want to get into a rant here. I was in the process of writing a rant about this subject, but deleted it and am going to make this a more stream-lined entry. Marvel and DC movies are not in competition. Both are clearly capable of making money, with comic book fans going to see both movies. But just because Joker is artsy does not automatically make it better than Marvel movies. And I don’t care what Mark Maron or Martin Scorsese or whoever else says about Marvel movies. If they don’t like them, that’s fine. My enjoyment and appreciation of a good Marvel movie is not dependent on whether or not artsy fartsy movie people like them. Nor is my dislike of Joker tied to whether or not other people view it as high art or some sort of incredible character study. Both DC and Marvel movies have their merits and both Marvel and DC movies can be enjoyed and appreciated.
That being said, one cannot deny the industry-shattering impact Marvel movies have had. They simultaneously pioneered and mastered the cinematic universe style of movie-making, while continuously putting out quality films beloved by the entire world. Maybe they’re not deeply emotional movies with vague, metaphorical endings, but movies can be many things.
1. There’s no need for a sequel or crossovers
As always, I’m just going to assume that Warner Bros. and DC will learn all the wrong lessons from the movie’s success. How much do you want to bet that DC decides to do a sequel or that DC decides that this is the Joker that will be part of the upcoming Batman movie reboot? I’d rather not. This was a stand alone movie telling a stand alone story. It said everything it needed to say. Where would the character even go from here, other than into a regular comic book movie universe where he fights Batman? And I definitely don’t want the Matt Reeves/Robert Pattinson Batman series to be built around this aesthetic.
Now, if DC wants to be a make a dark, serious and creepy Penguin movie…