I think that when the smoke clears, director Todd Phillips’ “Joker” is going to be a lesson to Hollywood that—people want dark, violent comic book movies… which shouldn’t be what’s learned, if you ask me. “Joker” lends credence to the long held opinion that comic books are art and not just pop fodder for adults that refuse to grow up. Comic book movies, much like comic books, can be compelling art, and “Joker” proves that, even in spite of its inherent flaws. “Joker” is a shockingly good movie, even though it really wants to be a Scorsese film.
Set in Gotham City 1981, Arthur Fleck is an aspiring comedian and working Joe who suffers no end of getting beaten around by everyone. Even people with the slightest edge on him manage to get their licks in. Committed to his mother, he dreams of being a guest on his favorite late night comedy show. But after one nasty incident on a train, Arthur sets out to finally right all the wrongs that have been committed to him. Armed with a revolver, and clown make up, he intends to set Gotham on fire, and make his mark.
“Joker” is one of the boldest movie projects of 2019 as Todd Phillips actually manages to take a Batman character, and make them the central character of their own movie. Sans Batman. You could basically call this one of the many potential origins for the Joker, and Todd Phillips takes an interesting glimpse in to the psyche of the character that mixes “Requiem for a Dream,” “King of Comedy,” and “Taxi Driver” in to one often entertaining thriller. Joaquin Phoenix is really the reason to experience Phillips drama thriller, as Phoenix re-invents the Joker, while also forging a new path for what begins as a victim’s tale and turns in to the beginnings of a murderer.
Phillips dabbles in the Batman lore just enough to help the forward momentum of his origin of the Joker, and he’s always on the side of Arthur Fleck. “Joker” isn’t perfect, as it manages to crib unabashedly from better films, but it’s still a very good dramatic crime thriller about the descent in to madness that sets the stage another new vision of Gotham City for a new generation.
Who knows if Warner or Todd Phillips is planning a new deluxe edition or whatnot, but the release including the Blu-Ray and DVD comes up surprisingly short. Becoming Joker is a two minute long music-driven segment with footage of Joaquin Phoenix before and after transforming into the title character. Joker: Vision & Fury is a twenty two minute segment with writer/director Todd Phillips, actor Joaquin Phoenix, production designer Mark Friedberg, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, and other key participants, all of whom speak about the film’s inception, working in a new genre, changing the character’s accepted origin, creating an alternate DC universe, turning modern-day New York City into 1980s Gotham, et al.
Please Welcome… Joker! Is a three minutes segment that expands on “Vision and Fury,” presenting multiple takes of a scene from the film with drastically different performances. Finally, Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos is a three minute quick-moving gallery of still images set to music by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir.