The Joker Spoiler Review


Warner Bros.

Dylan Ramos, Journalist

by Warner Bros.
by Warner Bros.

Last night I had the odd pleasure of getting to enjoy Joaquin Phoenix’s long awaited portrayal of the Joker, one of comic book history’s most favored and easily recognizable villains, on the movie’s opening date of October 4th. The movie exceeded what expectations I had in terms of its plot, and more than delivered to the hype of how Joaquin Phoenix would follow up the controversial and acclaimed performances of previous actors Jared Leto and Heath Ledger.

by Warner Bros.

How does Phoenix fare in light of other actors?

Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is incredibly grounded in realism as opposed to former more comic-oriented adaptations like Jared Leto , and bears most resemblance to the unsettlingly mad yet well-formed role Heath Ledger took on in 2008. In terms of comparing the qualities of both performances respectively, I find the two portrayals very similar despite the fact that Joaquin Phoenix had the spotlight on Joker’s journey rather than Batman’s in his film, as opposed to Heath Ledger co-starring Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”.

On a brand new note, “The Joker” introduces for the first time on-screen the incorporation of a true mental disorder in Joker’s character, the pseudo-bulbar affect, which incites unwanted fits of laughter and other emotional display in those who’re affected. Joaquin Phoenix also brings back qualities previously shown of the character’s arrogance and chaotic nihilism, but this time backed by a new darker and self-deprecating humor that unsettles other characters on screen, and even makes the audience uncertain of whether the character’s twisted timing should be a genuine call for laughter. In other words, Joaquin Phoenix takes the role from feeling like a wildcard comic-relief bound to the screen and Batman’s beatdowns, to a truly unstable and disturbed man posing threat to society.

by Warner Bros.
Opposed to previous portrayals, Phoenix brings new sense of authenticity to the role.  Photo by Warner Bros & Niko Tavernise

But what about the Batman?

As fans of the comic book cast know however, the Joker throughout his career as the comedic clown character has always been the villain of Batman, with him and the crime-fighting crusader being other halves on the same coin of trauma and obsessive passion. Making good work with the story being an origin one with the spotlight on the villain for a change, writers Scott Silvers and writer/director Todd Philips still manage to bring Batman in and continue the yin and yang, hero and villain relationship between the two- but with Batman being played by a 9-year-old.

by Warner Bros.

This works by joining together the already similar origins of Batman and the Joker, and weaving them together as two cause-and-effect events that end with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, as Gotham is ravaged by the Joker’s single-handedly incited, almost proletariat-revolution style riots.

While realistic and gloomy themes and aesthetics were key selling points for the film, I’d have to say as a fan of the comic book characters, the combination of origin stories and their significance to characters Bruce Wayne and Fleck is where the movie wins best. It combines what makes the characters of Batman and the Joker the same in obsession and trauma, yet contrasts their polar opposites in outlook and ability.

However as far as we know, this is a true standalone origin movie, and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker hasn’t been officially hinted to pair with Pattinson’s incoming Batman. Being the connection of the two characters to be so profound, I hope this would change in the future, but as far as things have gone now, “The Joker” was a satisfactory, deeply unsettling movie, akin to the thematic elements of  “Fight Club” and “Taxi Driver”, ignoring any super-villain antics but in no stretch chilling violence. It poses the question of how the injustices in our world can affect us and how we may choose to avenge them, and might best be enjoyed by a group of comic-familiar friends looking to get creeped out or geeked out.