Despite much talk that Joker is a “dangerous” movie, with many an ill-informed journalist insisting it has incel issues at its core, it is actually an important, rather reserved film (safer than your average Terminator movie, that’s for sure) that has less to do with involuntary celibacy leading to violence, and more to do with how shitty a place we’ve made the world.
Let’s not forget, this was never meant to be your typical comic book adaptation. Unlike the instant transformations we’re used to seeing in the genre (eg: Clark Kent going into a phone booth and coming out dressed in cape and tights), Joker is a slow burn of a movie, seeing its protagonist’s character develop incrementally.
Albeit, already down on his luck and after being treated like dirt by almost everyone around him – subjected to constant insults, rejections and beatings – Arthur Fleck is ready to lash out at the world.
Add an intense Freudian nightmare of a relationship with his mother, and it is inevitable this Mommy’s Boy was going to snap.
Those incel accusations oughtn’t even have come to light since there’s hardly an opportunity for sex in the first place. Calling Arthur an incel just because his life is focused on work and a dream career would be like calling every man an incel when aspirations of CEO take precedence over romance and relationships.
There are no over-the-top BANG!s and POW!s here but instead intense emotional reaction to ugly human behaviour.
Sure, Arthur has a crush on his attractive neighbour, regularly fantasising about her (and okay, so he thinks something real is happening) but what straight man hasn’t imagined going with a good-looking woman next door (or maybe I wouldn’t know, being gay myself?).
Indeed, if he would eat the occasional steak and slap on a well-coordinated suit, Arthur could cut quite a handsome figure.
The fact of the matter is that, pre-Joker, he is an individual with charismatic promise who is rejected and ridiculed at every turn. When all this adds up to being too much, the guy simply goes over the edge.
Joker is quite possibly one of the most realistic films to stem from comic book inspiration. There are no over-the-top BANG!s and POW!s here but instead intense emotional reaction to ugly human behaviour.
It’s no surprise the film is gaining impressive traction internationally, with total box office takings so far reaching $800 million in just under 80 markets.
Joaquin Phoenix is perfect as the victim-turned-villain, stealing each frame with subtle nuances that lose their lightness as the film moves further into noir territory.
By the end, out of the grit and shade of a Gotham City now burning in the midst of riot and revolution, you feel like you want to side with Batman’s arch-nemesis rather than see him ushered out of town.
See this film. See it twice. It’s going to make the formula for future superhero movies alter drastically.
‘Joker’ is in cinemas now.