Ryan’s too nice. Thanks to his noble dedication to inclusive conversations about film, his Joker review is professional and respectful. However, I’m a hideous creature of spite. Joker has crossed me, and now I must make an example of it…on the interwebs!
Since I 100% agree with Ryan’s review, you won’t mind if I skip ahead to the parts he couldn’t quite talk about. Turn the heck around and go read his review if you haven’t seen Joker. If you have seen Joker, or you just don’t care that much about spoilers, then welcome!
Based on the least interesting but somehow most popular origin story from the comics, Joker introduces us to a Clown Prince of Crime, who talks like a Southern belle, dances to your dad’s workout playlist, and kind of acts like a whiny lil’ bitch. Heath Ledger’s hot take on the character inspired a new tradition where marketing deems the peculiarities of each new Joker performance as spoilers in and of themselves. Trailers held back showing us Joaquin Phoenix’s version to stimulate all of the rumors about the notorious method actor going cray-cray for the role. Actually showing us this Joker in trailers would force Joker to admit that Phoenix’s performance has the depth of a garden-variety Purge maniac.
Towards the film’s end, the Joker makes his first appearance in Gotham City, on a late-night talk show hosted by a Martin Scorsese reference. It continues another weird DC tradition of flirting with The Dark Knight Returns without having the courage to just make the damn movie already. Because Joker is utterly convinced it’s an epic tragedy on par with Paradise Lost, he just kind of boringly shoots the host, instead of doing something distinctly Joker-y. In the comics, Joker kills the entire audience with laughing gas. Of course, Joker takes itself far too seriously to be a real Joker origin. Phoenix’s Joker is too preoccupied with slowly contorting his body set to haunting music because director Todd Phillips saw someone do that in an arthouse film once, I guess.
That’s the most annoying part of criticizing Joker. The fact that it’s a Joker movie that doesn’t feel anything like a Joker movie is a huge reason why people love the film. Of course, there’s also the counterargument that, “Well, he doesn’t feel like the Joker yet because he’s just becoming the Joker.” Still, there’s nothing that even feels vaguely Joker-ish about Phoenix. I’m not at all convinced this manbaby will ever evolve in a demented Bugs Bunny type who becomes a crime lord. Come on, though, would it really be jumping the shark to throw some laughing gas in there? Just a little bit? I mean, if you still want to pretend Joker is an emotionally devastating psychodrama, then make a laughing gas that triggers laughing fits followed by anaphylaxis or something.
It’s funny where Joker draws the line about what stuff from the comics is too stupid to include in the movie. Joker’s on-air murder triggers a citywide riot that Joker goes to extraordinary lengths to explain totally unconvincingly. Laughing gas is ridiculous, sure, but seeing the Waynes get shot by rioters is somehow fine. No, it’s not at all silly that Joker shoehorns a Batman origin into the ending, just in case Phoenix is willing to come back for The Killing Joke with Robert Pattinson. On the plus side, my favorite part of the movie is seeing Martha Wayne’s infamous pearl necklace explode off her neck like a frag grenade. It’s kind of amazing her murderers didn’t lose an eye.
Grade = F