I’ve been putting off watching Joker.
I wasn’t a fan of the inked up Leto Joker, though I also feel he didn’t get a fair go at the role. I’ve been hovering just out of the current Batman ongoing comics, and I’ve noted a particularly nasty streak from what I have seen.
Yes, I know, how old do I sound?
The Killing Joke, of course, pushed the boundaries and stood out as an essential Joker / Batman / Gordon story. But it was a standout because it was out of the normal. It pushed things, maybe a little far, but that was fine because the shock of the story was due to the uniqueness.
I remember the follow-up Joker story which reflected on how things had changed because that story was so savage (it was an excellent comic with an even better cover by Norm Breyfogle).
So with the Joker in the comics becoming harder-edged and the Suicide Squad Joker following this pattern I didn’t feel like seeing another “realistic” depiction. Heath Ledger’s Joker was brilliant, but it was still sat very much in these fantastic comic book films.
Joker promised something different, a serious depiction of a comic book character and with the state of the world and my life (LOL) I wasn’t interested in that bleakness.
Then the whole toxic masculinity conversation swirled around it, and the appeal dropped even further.
But it’s a comic book movie.
So I’m obliged to check it out, and Friday night that’s what I did. Tracey reluctantly agreed to watch it with me (she’s more than over comic book movies by this stage), she was particularly wary as I burned up a lot of goodwill watching the last two Star Wars films.
I can’t praise the film more.
It was one of the most effectively depicted origin stories I’ve ever seen, with any number of Joker depictions being the result of this very logical and realistic path. There are hints of Romero, Nicholson and Ledger in the film and while we know the 89 Joker’s origin story, you could easily swap it out for this one.
The added joy to this film is that it ties into the Batman mythology which I wasn’t quite expecting.
Joker certainly knows what has worked in the past for these characters and leans heavily on the aesthetic of The Dark Knight. Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal the whole cast is, but he is embodying the role.
The music is perfect and marries up well with iconic scenes.
The editing and pacing are exceptional as the story heads towards the eventual ending and we are left with the beginnings of a universe we know well and, for me at least, would love to revisit.
I reject the premise that Joker is to be celebrated by toxic masculinity as a hero or some justification of how the world has treated them. If that’s what you take from this story then you were probably going to imprint that reasoning on almost any storyline, maybe if more pretty girls chatted to Hannibal Lecter on the train, then he wouldn’t have had to go around eating people’s livers.
The Joker’s story is indeed tragic, but then you could say that so was Charles Manson’s childhood, but it doesn’t make what he became less horrific or vile.
Joker is a beautifully made film, and I’m so glad I eventually got around to seeing it.