Director Todd Phillips “Joker” centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.

What We Thought:

Before I saw Joker the other night I had heard nothing, but ridiculous praise. I knew someone who was already seeing it a second time. People were calling it a masterpiece and award worthy. Sure Joaquin Phoenix is good in the titular role, but I must have seen a different movie than those people because I don’t know if I’d ever watch it again.

And I’m not the only one. After the screening, myself and a few other people were talking about the film and wondering what we were supposed to like about it. One person overall liked it, but the rest of us were more confused about the praise than actually praising the film. A few days later at another screening, two other people joined in the conversation because neither of them had enjoyed it either.

Maybe such high expectations hurt my overall enjoyment level. Maybe hearing it compared to a Martin Scorsese film didn’t help it. Maybe hearing it was super violent and almost a horror flick got me too amped for a movie that moves at a snail’s pace. Super violent? There are two scenes of big violence. The first one is pretty graphic and does remind me of a scene in Drive which someone had mentioned prior to me seeing the movie. The second violent scene was pretty standard and you could see it coming a mile away if you’ve seen a Scorsese movie before. Everything else is typical of today’s comic book movies or what we see in the news with protests and people in the streets wearing masks.

I think that’s the biggest disappointment with the film, the story. By movie’s end it’s just another anti-capitalism, money is bad movie of today. Rich millionaires like to make movies that pander to people who think being rich is bad. By movie’s end, Joker’s whole reason for being, his spiral down ends up just being the spark that makes people riot against the likes of Thomas Wayne. Instead of Taxi Driver and a total nutjob, we get an anti-Wall Street flick.

And that sucks because Phoenix is really good. He will be nominated for acting awards and people will praise his performance, but it feels wasted by the end. He lost weight and got super into the character and his Arthur Fleck is a maniacal clown prince in the making. But he ends up an icon of the people in the streets and not Mr. J. You can say they weren’t trying to make a comic book movie, they wanted something different, something outside lore and the DCEU, yet there is a scene in it we’ve seen in every damn Batman movie before it.

Joker is going to open pretty big, but I’m curious to see what word of mouth after opening weekend does to its box office. Fanboys had given it a 9.5/10 on IMDB before it even opened so fanboys will say it’s great and perfect and won’t have an honest opinion about it. It’s not the movie I was hoping for and despite Phoenix being the incredible actor he is, it just didn’t work for me.

Director: Todd Phillips

Writers: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver, based on characters from DC.

Producers: Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais, Shea Whigham

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