David Edelstein, writing for Vulture, tells me everything I need to know about the movie Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, in one simple sentence.
The downside to the performance is the downside to the movie: It’s one note played louder and louder.
I don’t need that in my life. In fact, I have zero desire to watch this film. As Edelstein points out, it’s obvious what director Todd Phillips is going for here: a pastiche of a better director’s (Martin Scorsese) movies (obviously King of Comedy and Taxi Driver). Of course, he stunt casts Robert De Niro.
Although Phillips and the screenwriters sought to make Joker more realistic than its DC Comics predecessors, it exalts its protagonist and gives him the origin story of his dreams, in which killing is a just — and artful — response to a malevolently indifferent society. Arthur/Joker might be repulsive, but in a topsy-turvy universe, repulsive is attractive. I’m not arguing that Joker will inspire killings (it might, but so might a lot of other things), only that it panders to selfish, small-minded feelings of resentment. Also it’s profoundly boring — a one-joke movie.
How boring. But then, I’m not a selfish incel with “small minded feelings of resentment.” If I want to watch a “killing is just” movie, I’ll watch Keanu Reeves gun-fu through the John Wick movies. I’m sure I’ll be way more entertained.
Just who is this movie for anyway? I mean fans of the DC Comics version of the Joker aren’t going to care about this approach. If you loved Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance, this isn’t going to make you love the character more. If you hated Jared Leto’s take on the character, I’m sure Phoenix’s version will be even more wrong.
My fear is the controversy surrounding this movie will push audiences to go see the film and make those in charge of DC movies to incorrectly believe that creating individual, non-universe connecting movies is the way to go. It isn’t.
Don’t go see this movie.