a (final, for now…) review by the Azure-Winged Magpie.
(Don’t I see any long faces among you lot! We’re here to put on happy faces!)
Oh-ho-ho! I told you lot I’d be back one last time! This is the last time I’m reviewing a film on this blog until Star Wars Episode IX in December with the Swan(!) (which is a maybe so hold your horses!). But enough with all of that! We have a film to review! And hoo boy! Isn’t this one a special case?
I’ve been moving around a lot these days fighting dragons and whatnot. And guess what I got to see while off on my adventures?!
But wait! Before I go on with this review, I think we need a more serious vibe around here for this one. Let me just take a moment to put on a more serious (but still happy) face…
a review by Yamata no Orochi.
(It’s always an event when I shake off my Magpie feathers.)
😔 Joker 😊
SPOILER LEVELS at MINIMAL
Joker is a film by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, War Dogs), who’s mostly known for his comedy films. When the film was first announced, I thought that it was going to be directed by Martin Scorsese for some reason, and even though that sounded weird (why would Scorsese be doing a comic book film?), I was pretty excited for it. I wasn’t so excited when Phillips was announced, since I’m not really a fan of the films I’ve seen by him, but he really turned the dials up for Joker. This film is nothing like his other films from what I can tell, and I’m going to go ahead and say that yes. I think this film is dangerous, but probably not in the way you think.
I’ll get to all of that later (calm yourselves down). Let me talk about what I watched first.
And before anyone asks, the Joker in this film has nothing to do with Jared Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad. This is a Joker who’s divorced from the rest of the DCEU to the point where there’s no point in calling it a DCEU film or a DC “Black Label” film. It’s a standalone. Think about it like it’s the Berenstein Bears: a film from a different universe. An alternate reality, if you will.
So we have this guy Arthur (Joaquin Phoenix). And Arthur has problems. And no matter how much the film wants you to like Arthur, don’t be like Arthur.
You see, Arthur suffers. Arthur suffers a lot. And he takes his suffering as a seed for what he does later in the story. The film wants you to feel for Arthur, and it works. It works way too well. If you didn’t know what was coming, I wouldn’t fault you for wanting better for Arthur, to just want the guy to be “Happy” again.
Now here’s where I want to make a point. This is (a version of) the Joker. The guy who’s committed every crime under the sun over his multiple appearances and versions, starting from stealing candy from a baby to murder (okay, maybe not in that picture. Sorry for the spoiler) and (NSFW image warning) rape (don’t you even dare argue). Does anyone really not know what the Joker might do? Even though this is an alternate reality Joker, there’s always the chance that he’s going to go on some grand massacre and mess things up for everyone in the film. It’s kind of his thing and we should all know it by now.
It’s strange how even though the character is a despicable, reprehensible man, we all love him. The Joker’s always near the top of “best villain” lists with Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter and all the others. And we love him because he’s interesting. We’ve never been able to keep the Joker away (although the Jared Leto version can go jump off a cliff). We want him in our media. Oh, and there’s also the whole thing how those horrible things he does are all fictional, and there’s no use in not liking a fictional character for doing fictional things.
But you know what? Apart from The Killing Joke, we’ve never really had an origin for the character. Even the Joker prefers multiple choice. That’s where this film comes in with our sad boy Arthur and we start to watch him put on a happy face.
So let’s talk about Joaquin Phoenix. Is he good in Joker? Oh hell is he ever. I’m not going to compare him to the other Joker we all know he’s going to end up being compared to, but he is great in Joker. As a matter of fact, scratch that. This man needs awards for this role yesterday. He pulls off the most beaten-down, smacked-around puppy look so good you can’t really help but feel bad for him, and then you notice his “crazy eyes”. Now I’ve seen actual crazy eyes maybe once or twice in my life, and Joaquin nails the look. It’s this look that starts getting darker and crazier the more the film goes on, and at some point you realise you don’t really feel bad for the guy any more. You’re about to wet yourself because of those eyes.
The funny thing is, we almost wrote a post about Joker back when it was announced, and the Crow had a problem with the way Joaquin Phoenix looked in the first promos. And at the time I agreed with him that this look would’ve suited the actor better as the Joker. But what we get in this film works amazingly well. It works so well that I’m going to ignore we ever thought that back in 2018.
He looks broken half the time. He barely even looks like a person in some of the scenes before he turns into the Joker. And he chews up the scenery. He’s so good that you just can’t look away from him.
And now let’s talk about the one thing we all want to hear about.
Joaquin Phoenix’s laugh is a little bit unique as far as Joker laughs go. His laugh hurts him, literally and figuratively. It reminded me of some of Mark Hamill‘s laughs in the Arkham games, but it’s a laugh that I can’t see anyone other than Joaquin pulling off at the same time.
And it’s not just Joaquin Phoenix who’s good in this film. All of the actors are really good in their roles. Robert De Niro hasn’t been this good in anything in a long time, and he’s not really in the film for that long. And speaking of Robert De Niro and friends… Joker did deliver on the Scorsese. This film is straight lifted out of Scorsese’s earlier films, especially Taxi Driver starring Robert… De Niro.
I get why they chose to make Joker so much like Taxi Driver, but the two films are so similar that it actually makes Joker a little less awesome by comparison. I’m not saying Joker‘s not original though. I just think it was a little too inspired by Taxi Driver in the end.
Now let’s talk about how “dangerous” this film is.
Remember the last time I dropped my feathers and got all serious about a film? In that review (of A Serbian Film. I’m not linking it here), I said that the film could be dangerous and should be restricted. And a lot of people are saying similar things about Joker these days. Hell, even the US Army and the LAPD are getting involved. Let me straight up say something: yep, Joker‘s a dangerous film. Joker’s a dangerous film in the same way that any film can be dangerous. It’s dangerous just like The Dark Knight could have been dangerous. It’s a film about the Joker, with no Batman in sight. Hell, Joker‘s not even that violent. I specialise in violent films, and Joker‘s pretty average when it comes to cinema violence.
But there is a little part of this criticism people are levelling at this film that I want to poke at. I’ve read some really dumb articles in the few weeks between the film’s first release and when I saw it, and I’m ignoring the contents of all of them except for one concern people have. Is this film a rallying cry for incels?
No it isn’t.
Yeah, there are some scenes which some people could read as Arthur being a bit of an incel (or just acting like one), but I think that’s a bit of a reach to begin with. The context of these scenes (which I can’t spoil) show us that it’s not him possibly being an incel that’s important. It’s a whole different thing, and you really have to reach to tie the two together.
Could this inspire incels to violence? I guess so, but it could just as much as anything else could. Maybe because it’s a big blockbuster film about the Joker that kind-of sort-of touches on the subject, it could have more of an effect. But the film’s not trying to inspire violence and the people who made the film obviously don’t want that. I think all this insanity in the media is overblown and pointless. If someone takes this film as an inspiration and goes out and does something, that’s on them. I’m all for being responsible with what you make, even though you should keep yourself open to doing new things, but this film isn’t trying to cause trouble. It’s just trying to be good. It’s a character piece that’s exploring the mind of a disturbed, depraved criminal and making us feel sympathy for him. That’s all.
I wish people would judge Joker for exactly that. It’s a character piece and it’s a damn good one. We’re exploring the mind and sympathising with someone who it should be really hard to sympathise with. I’ve gone on about how good Joaquin Phoenix is in this film, but you have to understand that if he wasn’t this good in the film, we wouldn’t be making such a big deal out of it. And once you get past him (if you can), you’ll realise that everyone in the film is taking it seriously, which is always nice to see. Everyone’s at 100% in this one.
In other news, the film looks and sounds great. The lighting and the colours make everything much more horribly depressing than it already is, and when the Joker puts on his happy face, the film goes into full-tilt. I’m going to leave more specifics out for the spoiler review which should be coming out next week, but just take my word that this is a really well made film, and I’m going to give it a high recommendation from us at The Corvid Review because I just know the others are going to love it too.
Like always, I’m telling you to watch the film for yourselves and make up your own mind. The media frenzy over things that haven’t happened yet really does affect how people view things once they do see it, and I’m asking you to try and not let that happen to you. If you do, you might miss out on experiencing one of the better films of 2019 with a clear mind, that’s all. I said the same thing back in March when it came to Captain Marvel, and I still see people complaining about the character Captain Marvel (who’s barely shown up anywhere else) because of what Brie Larson said. And yeah, I get the irony that I’m here talking about films and whatnot and telling you not to pay attention to other people who do the same thing. But I also know you know the difference between reviews and scaremongering over social media.
Here’s where I’m going to cut myself off since I think I’ve made all my main points and I really don’t want to spoil anything about this film. And just to let you know, I’ll be popping in to post an update about what my plans are and where to find me once I figure everything out. Now, let me pull just my feathers back on, and tell you what my final rating for Joker is.
— Yamata no Orochi, descending into the depths.
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8.5/10
The Azure-Winged Magpie: Oh! Oh! Just before I go! Let me leave you with this gorgeousness:
I know. I know. It won’t be good, but it sure looks fun.
— Azure-Winged Magpie up! Up! And Awayyy! *BONK!*
Here’s the official poster: