“Joker” might be in the running for the best comic book movie of all time.
Never have I been so immediately captured by a movie right off the bat, and have it hold my attention the entire time. It’s insanely captivating. From the way Joaquin Phoenix moves, the way he looks, his laugh and everything else. It’s all engaging in a way I don’t think I will ever see replicated in another comic book movie.
Although this movie isn’t based off of any specific story line from DC Comics, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to Alan Moore’s 1988 graphic novel “The Killing Joke.”
For those who don’t know, “The Killing Joke” is a one-shot storyline where the Joker is trying to prove to Batman it only takes “one bad day” to make anyone insane. Although the events in “Joker” obviously take more than one day to unfold, I think the premise is still the same: it took a series of unfortunate and messed-up events in a short amount of time for Arthur Fleck’s world to come crumbling down, driving him to insanity.
This is odd for me to say, but I’m actually okay with the story not being based on any type of actual comic story. Typically, this would bug me, and maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of DC Comics, but I think this works really well here. So well, in fact, that if I was the head of the DC Cinematic Universe, I would scrap a lot of what they have so far and start over with this movie. Make this movie the foundation of the DCCU. The DCCU wanted to be darker than the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the beginning, but the way they went about it did not captivate audiences in the way they thought it would. This is the way to captivate audiences. Yes, most movies would be R-rated, but how can you ignore how good this movie is and how well it is doing in the box office right now? You can’t.
Batman’s origin story is presented in this movie, perfectly setting up the battles Phoenix’s Joker and Robert Pattinson’s young Batman could have against each other, then setting up the rest of the DCCU.
This movie is not only important to the comic book movie world, it also provides compelling commentary on the world’s social structure right now. The stark division between the upper and lower classes in “Joker” sets the stage for the tension we see reach a boiling point in this movies climax. What’s scary is, in the movies climax, the Joker makes compelling points about life in the world.
At the end, Joker says “if I was dead on the street you would walk over me,” yet the upper class is concerned with the three Wall Street kids Fleck murders towards the middle of the movie who were drunk and harassing a woman on a train.
Mental health is also at the forefront of this movie. Does our society care about the mentally ill? Ask Arthur Fleck for his opinion.
Movies like this, where the villain takes on the main character role, are great psychological thrillers. Audiences almost immediately always want to sympathize with the main character, yet you’re torn when the villain becomes the main character. You want the main character of any movie to succeed but wishing for Joker’s success almost means you’re wishing for people to die, which is messed up. The conflict is not just on screen, it’s in the mind of the audience member.
This type of conflict and storytelling hasn’t been told in any comic book movies made so far. It’s truly unparalleled. I haven’t had to think so deeply about how I feel about a movie in a very long time. It’s a shame we might never see Joaquin Phoenix reprise his role as Arthur Fleck, and if we never do, what an impact he has made with a movie that almost never existed.