At first I had zero interest in watching the new Joker movie. In recent years we’ve been bombarded with DC and Marvel movies that I frankly find pretty one-dimensional and shallow. Besides, the stories have been told before, often numerous times, so there aren’t many surprises. However, I started to pick up some chatter from both mainstream and alternative media sources about this movie being a bit controversial. There are some contrasting claims that the movie was political, or had certain messages or social commentary that was important. It’s not that I am necessarily drawn to controversy, but my curiosity was piqued and (like always) I then wanted to make up my own mind.
If you’re a comic fan-boy who wants to see another “origin” story, or are just up for watching another mindless/shallow action movie then you’re probably going to be disappointed (or even disturbed) with this one. The best classification I’ve seen for this movie is as a “Psychological Thriller” but that doesn’t seem to do it justice either and you really DO need to know what you’re in for here. This movie is NOT what I’d call entertainment. It’s a bit of a train wreck, but if you’re a seeker like me and have the fortitude to sit through it then it is definitely a movie that will challenge you.
In some ways this Joker reminds me of an older movie called Falling Down (1993) starring Michael Douglas. The main character starts out as someone that you can empathise with, even relate to, and slowly they start pushing the boundaries to the point where their behaviour “crosses the line” as to what you might consider acceptable. For different viewers that line may be in a different place and that is part of the intrigue of movies like this. They challenge your own empathy and morality. I have no doubt that there will be some people in the world who would consider that the Joker doesn’t cross any line and that’s probably why the film is being labelled by some as being dangerous. This movie is definitely not for everyone and is appropriately 18+ rated.
Without spoiling too much - The acting is outstanding, even if it is a bit gut wrenching to watch the story of a mentally troubled man who starts out just trying to make people happy as a clown and care for his aging mother. He starts falling through the cracks in society and after a few setbacks he turns violent. There is a great line near the beginning of the movie where he asks his indifferent counsellor “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?”. There probably isn’t an adult alive today who couldn’t relate to this question. It is as significant as the climactic scene of Falling Down where Michael Douglas’ character asks “I'm the bad guy? How did that happen?” If the movie wasn’t so controversial it would easily be an award winning performance by Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. Hopefully the PC crowd and outrage merchants don’t deny him the recognition.