‘Joker’ Review: A Poignant and Powerful Look at Ourselves

“Joker” by Warner Brothers. 

What happens to a man when society has failed him? Joker by Warner Brothers Pictures answers that question in a visceral way that general moviegoers haven’t experienced since 1976’s Taxi Driver from director Martin Scorsese. Thankfully, this cautionary story is still as modern today as ever before. Director Todd Phillips and cinematographer Lawrence Sher crafted a comic book film that is separate from any previous incarnations. By doing this, it allowed audiences to come in with a clean slate.

Joker is a poignant and powerful look at ourselves. With the financial gap widening between the rich and the poor in Gotham City, Joaquin Phoenix’s character Arthur Fleck is a man that is beginning to lose everything in sight. Phoenix turns in a performance worthy of an Oscar Nomination. Make no mistake that while being Rated R, Joker only has violence in it for the sake to push forward its narrative, as opposed to glorifying it like other mindless action films. 

Thankfully, everyone involved chose to tell this story and use the violence as a means to warn audiences of how these decisions always have consequences. If you’re a hardcore comic book reader and a fan of the genre itself, have no fear because there are a lot of small nods to the comic lore. Many will compare Ledger’s interpretation of the character with Phoenix’s. Ledger’s version was more of a rising mob boss, while Phoenix’s version is a man that has been rejected by everyone he seeks validation from in life. 

The film is a slow burn, but surprisingly benefits from this pacing because it is meant to be a character study. The final 20 minutes were a joy to watch because you finally witness the Joker character descend into madness. By the end, my theater gave the film a standing ovation at a 4PM showing. Hopefully, this approach to telling these comic book stories becomes successful so it can empower Warner Brothers to produce more films in this genre with the intelligence and seriousness that they deserve.

‘Joker’ laughs into theaters October 4, 2019.