DC experiments with dark Joker

Joker, playing at the Narberth Theater – photo by Matthew Schwartz ’21

Not many movies have caused quite as much controversy as Todd Phillips’ Joker, the latest installment in DC’s lineup of new superhero movies that do not follow the typical cinematic universe of the recent Marvel films. After debuting and subsequently winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Joker has gained a lot of attention and criticism in its ability to incite possible violent attacks at screenings of the film.

     Starring Joaquin Phoenix in a role that might give him one more chance at an Oscar win, Joker does its best to give an appearance of mystery and deeper meaning, but gets stuck with a surface-level meanings and a character who without his previous incarnations both in comics and on the big screen is nothing more than a man crazed and off his medication. Towards the end of the film, Phoenix’s character Arthur Fleck, at this point in the film referred to as “Joker,” makes a point that while his clown costume has become the symbol behind Gotham’s revolt against the establishment, he himself has no political opinions towards what is happening.

Phoenix gives an amazing, potentially Oscar-worthy performance

     Phillips has set up a perfect moment for Joker to delve into the chaos of the city, but instead shifts the blame of Joker’s demise onto his environment and not the deteriorating mind of the character. Phoenix gives an amazing, potentially Oscar-worthy performance, but his inability to connect with the outside world hurts the depth of the movie as a whole.

     Joker also relies heavily upon tropes from movie classics such as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, hurting its originality and, for any moviegoer who has watched either of those two films, gives a pretty good indication of where the plot is going. As DC continuing to distance itself from the disasters of Justice League and Batman vs. Superman, Joker gives a glimpse of a future where comic book movies do not have to contain spandex, a disposable villain, and large-scale CGI fights. It will be exciting to see the future projects this movie inspires as studios become more comfortable adapting their high-profile intellectual property in experimental ways.

Author: Matthew Schwartz '21

Managing Editor Matthew Schwartz has written for The Index for three years. He previously served as News Editor.