Walking out of the theater after seeing Joker, I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie was exactly what I was expecting, but a complete and welcome surprise as well. If you’re looking for an action-packed, shoot ‘em up superhero movie, this is not the film for you. However, I would absolutely recommend that you see this movie regardless. It is a very interesting and different view on the character of the Joker, and I can confidently say I would most definitely watch it a few more times because it is that good. I was very pleased that this movie was rated R, but I will give a warning and say that this is a very dark film. As someone who plays violent video games and watches violent movies all the time, even I found myself slightly uncomfortable during some parts. However, without the dark tone, this movie would never be as good as it is.
Let me start by saying that Joaquin Phoenix is an absolutely stupendous actor and does a tremendous job of making the character, whom I so dearly love, come to life. While I applaud his performance in the new film, I still hold Heath Ledger to be the best to-date portrayal of the character on the big screen. Going into the movie, I was curious to see if Joaquin Phoenix could fill the shoes of the esteemed actors playing the Joker before with Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger, and Jack Nicholson being my personal favorites. I had hoped that he would be better than the dull and lackluster performance by Jared Leto, and I can most definitely say that this is true. Is Joaquin Phoenix the Joker we have seen? Definitely not, but there could not have been a better actor for this particular film.
This movie was meant to be a backstory of the Joker, and with that being said, I think it does a great job of doing so. However, there are a few moments in the film where it goes off the rails from the traditional comic book character. There are a few moments in the film where Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker has an emotional response to his actions. The Joker we all know from the comics and previous movies would never think twice about killing or committing some heinous crime, and it felt like a slight disconnect between the true character and the one in this movie. I think that this movie was supposed to be “the turning point” where the Joker becomes who he is in all the other portrayals of the character, but it still feels like a slightly different character in the end.
Visually, the movie does some things that are just absolutely amazing. The camera work, lighting, and scenery are perfect, and make this one of the finest looking movies I have ever seen. The film plays with your mind a little bit, to foreshadow what is going to happen. For example, you might only be able to barely hear the faint and barely recognizable sound of a gun click, and then all of a sudden a dude’s head explodes. It catches you off guard and while subtle, adds a lot to the movie’s more intense sequences. The scenery in Joker is perfect and highlights the dark and serious tone that the movie is trying to get across. The realistic sense of Gotham City truly makes the movie much more comparable to the real world and does the movie a great service.
While the ideology of the Joker is an extreme version of what this movie is intended to tell you, this film is very obviously designed to be social commentary. The ideas discussed in the film are interesting and definitely important to talk about, but sometimes the film is very in-your-face and straight forward with how it presents these ideas. In some parts of the movie, this is done expertly, showing the audience the ideas of social injustice, inequality, and mental health through scenery, characters, and some of the plot sequences. But there are some parts where the movie literally just tells you what’s wrong with society through some dialogue sequences and takes away from the overall message. I just wish they had done this a little bit more subtly in these parts because it feels slightly out of place compared to other well-done scenes.
At the end of the day, I think this is an excellent movie. Joker does a lot of things very well and had me on the edge of my seat for almost the entire movie. The film is set up very well to have at least one sequel, and I am greatly hoping to see Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker again on screen sooner rather than later. Almost every issue I had with the movie was minimal and mostly just me being super-picky. At the end of the day, I would give this movie a solid 9/10 and I would go so far as to even say that this movie is deserving of a Certified Gas Seal of Approval. Joker is a must-see in my book, and I am expecting more than one Oscar to come from this movie.