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What happens when you have the director of Due Date and The Hangover series direct an origin story about the clown crime boss of Gotham City, starring Gladiator's Joaquin Phoenix? You get a Joker - but a very violent one who has a hard time stopping himself from laughing throughout the film. The laughter was however as far from a comical reaction as the genre of the movie was from comedy. Get the picture?
Joker was initially released on the 31st of August 2019 in Italy, and later released in the USA and the rest of the World on the 2nd of October onwards. Technically, it has only been about a week since its release and despite the controversy surrounding the film, Joker has managed to rake up close to $1 billion in sales. So really, how bad could it possibly be?
We have seen and read all kinds of opinions about the film and reviewers are generally torn between Joker being the best film of the decade, and a really horrible and offensive attempt at a good origin story. Naturally, depicting the origin story of the maniacal, and psychotic supervillain of Gotham, Joker was bound to be themed a little dark. Here are some of the reactions:
The New Yorker:
Phoenix, alternately brooding and exulting, dancing extravagantly in his underwear or in a resplendent costume or seething with rage, cringing with horror, or camping it up with an affected accent, isn’t so much unhinged as unmotivated and, to all appearances, undirected. What he delivers is less a performance than a display of his bag of actorly tricks—and they’re pretty wonderful, but they adorn a character who’s an empty framework, and, to all appearances, empty by design, for fear of alienating the target audience.
It’s possessed by the kind of provocative spirit that’s seldom found in any sort of mainstream entertainment, but also directed by a glorified edgelord who lacks the discipline or nuance to responsibly handle such hazardous material, and who reliably takes the coward’s way out of the narrative’s most critical moments.
In Joker, Joaquin Phoenix digs into the title role, kicks out the jams, and stamps the character with a danger all his own. “Phenomenal” is a puny word to describe his gut-punch performance... As entertainment and provocation, Joker is simply stupendous.
Joker... is a calculatedly combustible concoction, designed, like its chaos-creating character, to cause a stir. To provoke and distort. I wish it was as radical as it thinks it is. Instead, Joker is a mesmerizing, misjudged attempt to marry the madness of a disturbed individual to today’s violent and clownish times. It’s a shallow, under-examined movie that renders the dark descent of a troubled man with an operatic fervor.
and here's what our favorite Joker of all time had to say about the film:
Oh boy, a stir of opinion is what it is. We thought the film was extraordinary though. We also think of the movie as the story of a man named Arthur Fleck, who was a victim of a reckless and unkind society, more than the story of Batman's archenemy Mr. J. That way, we gain closure and get to accept the fact that it's a standalone film and will probably never be a part of future Batman films.