Now I’m a huge fan of Heath Ledger as the best Joker ever to hit the screen. And within The Dark Knight Trilogy, I believe that Heath Ledger is still phenomenal as Batman’s greatest nemesis (‘The Dark Knight’ review here). Nevertheless, in this background story Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker is outstanding. He becomes the character in a multitude of ways. His look is haunting, his laughter echoes in the silent cinema room, his silence makes you sit still. I found myself frozen in my seat, unnerved by what this Joker by succumb to, waiting for the final snap.
Pinpointing the actual plot of the film comes down to two words: character development. The film is what it says on the tin, it is about the Joker through and through. His life, his development, his road to violence. The whole film is full of tension. Arthur Fleck, aka the Joker, is incredibly unnerving. The unpredictability of this character is haunting. Although at the same time, there is a victimisation of the villain – he’s been rejected from society, horrifically beaten and abandoned. It’s heart-breaking at times with a condition that seems to get him worse into trouble, you feel for Arthur as he’s ridiculed and misunderstood. The background story with this mother only deepens throughout the film and adds to Arthur’s misery as he discovers more about himself. This story was inviting to be discovered and draws you in to find out more.
All Arthur wants is to fulfil his mother’s given nickname of ‘Happy’. He wants to give people joy and laughter, to put smiles on people’s faces. But with a multitude of psychological problems, he finds it’s not as easy as he has always believed. His nickname becomes ironic in his hatred of life and misery of everything. His uncontrollable laughter becomes a result of ignorance and hate. His mask is his clown and he becomes the clown to set the crazy world right but into deeper chaos.
There is a connection to the Wayne family. However, this was something I didn’t want to be obsessively covered and happily it wasn’t. The nod to the family and little Bruce Wayne is enough to keep the film separate from all the other franchises and adds development into both families. If it went any further I believe the ‘Joker’ would become a film retelling a story already told – fortunately they knew their limits to make the film different but still having a nod to Batman which you can read into as much as you wish and not have it forced upon you.
As a stand-alone film, ‘Joker’ could continue as a phenomenal film. Add anything to it and I’m worried it’ll lose all meaning and be lost amongst a mass once again. I may have missed the comedy that others laughed at, but I was lost in the psychological thriller and drama of this character we know so little of. The film has given a deeper meaning to the reasons behind, but an unnerving, unknown understanding to his happy ending. There’s a clear snap but the audience can understand why, even though his violence is extreme and shocking, it was a society that has been leading him that way for too long and he’s finally found his meaning to life. Perverse and deep in meaning, ‘Joker’ is definitely a psychological thrilling drama trying to come to grips with this complex character as a victim and as a villain brought as one. Additionally, I will always welcome Robert De Niro to my screen.