If you’re going into Todd Phillips’ Joker movie expecting to see a number of costumed heroes joking around between massive action set pieces, you need to adjust your settings. That’s because Phillips has crafted an intimate, standalone character study that’s extremely influenced by another era of filmmaking. From the way the opening credits play, to the final frames of the movie, Phillips has taken the colorful comic book movie to the dirty, gritty streets of the late 1970s with fantastic results. Trust me, you have never seen a comic book movie like Joker and I’m not sure we will ever get one like this again.
As almost everyone reading this article knows, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a clown-for-hire by day and a wanna be stand-up comic at night. Unfortunately, Arthur never seems to catch a break and as things start to build up in his life, he starts to make decisions that will impact everyone around him. Joker also stars Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Shea Whigham, Frances Conroy, Bill Camp, Brian Tyree Henry and Glenn Fleshler.
Joker is one of those rare movies where I was still thinking about it the next day. And as soon as my brain slowed down after the credits ended, I wanted to watch again.
Phillips and Phoenix have crafted something really special with an amazing lead performance that is sure to be talked about in the awards race especially because of how much Phoenix gave to the role. When you see the movie, you’ll see Phoenix transformed his body by losing a lot of weight and his look adds another dimension to the character. In addition, he’s in almost every frame of the movie. If you don’t believe what he’s doing the film is done, but I bought in 100%.
While some might have wondered why Joker was playing in competition at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, after seeing the film I completely understand. Joker is a great movie. It just so happens to be a comic book movie.
As I’ve said again and again, the only way for the comic book movie to thrive is to tell new and innovative stories where the audience can’t predict the outcome. Joker is one of those films. With Marvel making PG-13 films (who knows if Deadpool will ever be R-rated again), DC has shown a willingness to embrace adult stories and I hope this is the beginning of comic book movies aimed at adults only. I would love to see other actors and directors tell one-off stories in the DC universe. That’s not to say Joker can’t have a sequel. I just like the idea of multiple people playing a similar role.
Shortly after seeing the film I sat down with Collider’s Dorian Parks and we did a spoiler free review. You can watch it below.
And make sure to check back in about a week when Matt Goldberg writes a full review from TIFF.