‘Joker’: a descent into madness

'Joker' is rated R, to see 'Joker' you must be 17 years old or older to see without an adult.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Jacob Rengstorf

When it was announced that there would be a movie centered around Joker without Batman I was confused. Could a character like Joker really be able to carry a whole film on his own? My knowledge of the characters of the Batman universe is limited to the movies.  I’ve never read any of the comics or watched any of the cartoons. To me this character would only work as a foil to Batman but I’m happy to say this movie works and is pretty good. Joker is a film directed by Todd Phillips and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, and Zazie Beetz.

Joker is not your typical comic book movie. Joker doesn’t have any crazy action scenes but instead is a character study of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck and his descent into madness. The film is a critique of society, class, and on how people in general treat each other. This film is an obvious homage to Martin Scorsese’s films Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, it even takes place in 1981. The pacing of the film was good, I was never once bored. The score was great, it was dark, atmospheric, and worked for the film. However it got a little bit repetitive and felt unneeded in some scenes. The licensed music was all great. The cinematography was great, there were some beautiful shots with some great lighting. The production design complimented the cinematography greatly. Each set that is inside a building felt very claustrophobic and dilapidated. The cinematography and production design really made Gotham City look like a horrible place to live. What worried me the most was the directing. Todd Phillips is mostly a comedy director and taking on a dramatic character study like this seems too far out of his comfort zone. I’m glad to say that the directing was good. There were some interesting shots and the film has a personality to it.  

By far Joaquin Phoenix’s performance was the highlight of the film. This is one of his best performances to date. Joaquin Phoenix is one of my favorite actors and he carries this film. Joaquin Phoenix lost an astounding 52 pounds for this film and it shows.  Arthur is a very interesting character and a very disturbed person. One of my favorite additions to this interpretation of Joker is his laugh. In other movies Joker just laughs like a normal person but in this film Arthur’s laugh looks uncomfortable and like it physically hurts him, Joaquin Phoenix sells this laugh so well. If this performance wasn’t great the film just wouldn’t work but thankfully Phoenix gives a great performance. The other actors are good but just aren’t in it a lot. Arthur is front and center.

However ‘Joker’ does have its problems. The cinematography of the film is great as I said earlier but there are some handheld shots that are very shaky and feel kind of like a YouTube video. These shots took me out of the film. The film sometimes feels like it needs to explain things that are obvious and feels like the movie thinks the audience is dumb. By far the worst part of the film is the script. As I said the character writing is pretty 1 dimensional. The other characters in the film feel more like caricatures. Arthur is an interesting character but that is because of Phoenix’s performance, the writing for his character is your cliche guy who is down on his luck and is a loner who is mad at society. The script can be very cliche and cheesy at times.

Overall I enjoyed ‘Joker’ I didn’t expect a masterpiece, I was expecting a decent movie with a good Joaquin Phoenix performance and I’m happy to say my expectations were exceeded. Joaquin Phoenix gives one of his best performances. The score is great and the production design is well crafted. The writing isn’t amazing, some handheld shots took me out of the movie, and some characters feel more like caricatures but I really enjoyed the movie. I think Joker is a good movie and the best comic book movie of the year.