When we talk about cinema of rare quality, we often look at films that leave a deep, profound impression on you long after the credits roll. Films that dazzle with their stories, characters, cinematography, directing, and every technical aspect that work together to create something truly mesmerizing. However, they're also aren't afraid to break genre conventions to deliver stories that explore more than just your typical good versus evil narrative. In comic book films, these are in increasingly short supply, with a few daring to go the extra step to be recognized for being something different; something unique. The last film to leave its mark to this degree in comic book films was Christopher Nolan's excellent The Dark Knight. I say this because Todd Phillips' Joker is, unquestionably, the best comic book film since then.
NOTE: This review is spoiler-free.
Right off the bat, I should warn you that Joker is less a film about the popular DC villain of the same name, and more about the character of Arthur Fleck, a down-on-his-luck, aspiring comedian who not only goes over the edge, but leaps to his downfall. It's a difficult film to watch at times, but nonetheless essential to the degradation of a morally grey lead character. Taking place in the early 80s, Joker paints Gotham as a divided city on the brink of an impending, violent revolution. Caught in the midst of it all is Arthur, who struggles to find his place in society. Sadly, due to a medical condition that forces uncontrollable laughter out of him at the worst of times, he is looked down on, and can only find solace and some normality in being a performing clown.
Arthur is a sympathetic character until he ceases to be, and it's all the more heartbreaking watching this mental collapse happen...
It's equal parts mesmerizing and morbid, and Phoenix walks that fine line with absolute conviction.
...cinephiles should be familiar with the clear inspirations that Phillips lifts from, especially two of Scorsese's landmark films, The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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4 October 2019
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