Joker – Quick Review – A Comic Book Taxi Driver

joker looks into a mirror with writing that reads "put on a happy face"
Start your day with a positive affirmation. Source: Warner Bros Pictures

Go see Joker. It’s good! Overall, I’m feeling a light 7/10 for this Joker review. This is not a movie about The Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a movie about the perfect storms that give rise to the violent extremists in our midst. It’s a pleasure to see Joaquin Phoenix twist himself into a character that doesn’t move, talk, or act like anyone else in the film (or even previous Jokers for that matter).

Background

Team

  • Director: Todd Philips – Directed all three Hangover movies, Due Date, Old School, and the infamous national anthem scene in Borat. Seems to have a rep as causing ruckus in the media.
  • Writers: Todd Philips, Scott Silver – Silver doesn’t have too many writing credits, at least according to IMDB–Johns, The Fighter, and Joker.
  • Actors (Headliners): Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz. You might recognize Beetz as Domino in 2018’s Deadpool 2 or as Vanessa on Atlanta.

Ratings & Reviews

As of 10/5/19:

  • IMDB: 9.1/10 (94,621 ratings, 1,947 user reviews)
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 70% critic (387 reviews), 92% audience (8,418 ratings)
  • Metacritic: 58 (55 critic reviews)

We include 3 rating sources because each has a different methodology. You can think of IMDB as closer to what film consumers though, Rotten Tomatoes as how many critics though a movie was decent, and Metacritic as an average score of select critics.

Highlights

The character of the Joker has always gripped us since his inception. At the core, he is an amalgamation of archetypes: an evil villain, a “prince”, and a fool. Yet he has continuously evolved over the years and has even become involved in our social culture wars as a symbol of anarchy, outcast empowerment, and just plain trollery.

This cultural significance is due in no small part to Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as a manifestation of chaos. The announcement of this new incarnation really turned me off initially–perhaps a bit of an unfair comparison. Seeing the Joker as an enigma has pretty much always been a mainstay of the character, but in this new Joker film, he is shown as a person having a real name. I believe that Joker’s director Todd Phillips and his team did a good job overall in making a statement about contemporary society and about comic book movies.

I’ve said it before and this might be another unfair comparison, but Joker is a comic book version of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (of which there are some overt references). By that, I mean this film is a focused character study done with DC comics lore. This is not a movie about The Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a movie about the perfect storms that give rise to the violent extremists in our midst.

Don’t make the mistake of listening to how the media is framing this movie politically; there are elements of both far Right and far Left ideology in this movie in my humble opinion. My point is, you need to go see this movie to make your own opinion it outside of what the critics say.

Nitpicks & Other Notes

Speaking of Taxi Driver, the legendary director Martin Scorsese himself just recently stated that he didn’t believe Marvel movies to be “cinema”. Well, we can assume he meant comic book movies in general. Although one could sum up Joker as a half-baked Taxi Driver, I’d like to think he’d place this one in the cinema category.

The film meanders a bit too much and the “Batman” stuff is a little too forced for my tastes, but ultimately it’s a pleasure to see Joaquin Phoenix twist himself into a character that doesn’t move, talk, or act like anyone else in the film (or even previous Jokers for that matter), he was carrying this movie like Atlas carries the globe. Overall, I’m feeling a light 7/10.

Screenshots & Media

arthur fleck on stage
Phoenix cuts a skinny figure. Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

forced smile with jokers fingers in his mouth
Smile! Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

joker hooks fingers in mouth to force smile with tear going down
I SAID SMILE MOTHERFUCKER! Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

zazie beetz as sophie dumond
Gotham nights. Source: Warner Bros Pictures.

joker smokes a cigarette alone
A thoughtful moment alone. Source: Warner Bros. Pictures.

This review is part of the Quick Reviews series. Quick Reviews are concise with standard formatting (and spoilers) that you can read in a about minute to get the gist of our thoughts.

Alex Urena

A real cinephile who isn't afraid to share his opinions on the great and not so great things out there.
Alex Urena

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Post Author: Alex Urena

A real cinephile who isn't afraid to share his opinions on the great and not so great things out there.

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