‘Joker’ certainly has struck a chord with many critics and audiences, whether positive or negative, but it still remains socially relevant today and offers us a new take on comic-book films.
The ‘Joker’ Movie has a lot to be proud of. For starters, it is the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time and was able to snag Oscars for its music and Phoenix himself. This movie was divided amongst critics because of its content and its portrayal of mental illnesses.
Whether you love it or hate it, this movie certainly stirred controversy when the first trailer dropped way back in April 2019. So what makes this comic-book origin story so great from the rest?
- The Tone
The tone of the film is something to certainly admire. Mirroring Martin Scorceses’s ‘Taxi Driver’ from 1976, ‘Joker’ takes a dark and gritty tone of the inner city and creates something beautiful to match. While many marvel movies have a light-hearted and fluffy tonality to them, ‘Joker’ gives us something different in this comic-book iteration.
Many DC Comics films have had a dark and gritty tone to the point that they seem depressing. ‘Batman Vs. Superman’ anyone?
‘Joker’ was able to transcend that tone and give us something unique, as a whole, using its R-rating to give it more freedom to do what it needs to.
- It’s Unique
Speaking of uniqueness, the reason ‘Joker’ is able to stand above the rest of comic-book movies is because it doesn’t belong to any franchise or series–as far as we know. Many superhero and comic-book iterations are usually based inside of an ever-growing franchise like the MCU or DCEU. Unlike those movies, ‘Joker’ was designed to be a standalone film and not be part of a cinematic universe, despite the fact that a sequel is possible.
It makes for good reason that it is a comic-book film that is able to stand on its own two feet and walk away successfully. Not a lot of movies can do that, which is already a remarkable feat.
- It’s plausible!
Another reason that ‘Joker’ stands out from the crowd of loud and noisy superhero flicks is because unlike most superhero movies, ‘Joker’ is much more plausible. You aren’t going to see aliens attacking the Earth or Gods with hammers wiping out armies with one blow. You see a mentally unstable man named Arthur Fleck who has been outcast by society and lives in isolation.
Had Todd Phillips taken a different direction to the origin story, like the Joker falling in a vat of acid, we would be having a very différent conversation because it would be a lot less plausible. In Detective Comics #168 in 1951, and revised in Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, where the Joker, before he became the joker, fell into a vat of acid after a scuffle with Batman, giving him a white complexion, red scarred lips, green hair and a frightening cackle and that explanation is so lazy. It doesn’t cut deep within the motivations of why this character is the way he is.
Despite the critics’ gripes, there are people out there that live like this. They may not dress in clown makeup but there are people that are isolated, mentally unstable and living paycheck to paycheck. There are not people that get frozen for over 100 years like Captain America or people that have the same kind of anger issues like the Hulk and ‘Joker’s’ plausibility is what makes it great.
- It’s socially conscious
‘Joker’ remains a film known for not being a traditional ‘superhero’ film but a very socially conscious film that speaks to many of those that are outcast through the mouth of the clown prince of crime. Many people thought that this would spark outrage in the incel community and then cause a shooting or provoke some sort of violence.
Whether or not it sparked outrage, it struck a chord with these communities and while most superhero movies are the standard good guy fights bad guy and good guy wins type of formula, ‘Joker’ is able to speak to an army of people and given the fact that it is the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.
- It has the greatest Joker ever put to screen
Now many people are going to tell you that Heath Ledger was the greatest Joker of all time and Ledger was a spectacular Joker. However, in “The Dark Knight” the Joker, as brilliant as he was, only appeared as a villain that caused mayhem without reason. We as the audience were only given a dusting of the Joker’s backstory and he changes the story every time someone asks him how he got those scars.
Phoenix’s Joker gives the audience a perfect character study of the villain with a backstory, motivation and his life before Batman and the audience feels more and more sorry for him as the film progresses. In their movies, and as time passed, people rooted for both characters, but Phoenix’s Joker gave us a better character arch and more sympathy towards the character.