So the new Joker movie has been released and it is dominating the box office, splitting critics and stirring up controversy. The psychological thriller is directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy, Old School) and stars Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Gladiator) as clown and aspiring stand up Arthur Fleck who becomes iconic comic book villain The Joker.
Now Redmangoreviews has done collab reviews in the past but this one is very special as we have our very first youth reviewer. So with a very mild SPOILER ALERT here are our three mini(ish) reviews:
Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
I’ve read and watched a lot of reviews of this movie. I’ve even discussed it at length with my friends. To say this one is divisive is an understatement, but the central consensus is Joker is a damn good movie.
For me personally, Phillips managed to combine the gritty brutal realism and visceral sensations of 70’s era revenge flicks, with an ‘elseworld’ take on everyone’s favorite DC villain. The score by Hildur Guonadottir is haunting and blends perfectly with the atmosphere of Gotham, while adding to the emotional highs and lows of the character. Joaquin Phoenix has proven time and time again there’s no role he can’t handle, but what he manages to do with his Joker is give us one of the deepest, most unfiltered looks into what might’ve made this madman become the Clown Prince of Crime. From his bodily movements to his voice, to a laugh that will haunt your dream (and make it so you never think of Joker’s laughter the same way again), Phoenix’s Joker may not be your favorite, but bet your bottom dollar it’s not a version you’ll ever forget.
As someone who hasn’t seen the movies (King of Comedy, Taxi Driver) that may have inspired Phillips’ take on this film, I have the advantage of watching with a naiveté that brings me back time and time again to a near perfect score on this movie. I’m loathe to call it a “comic book movie”. Maybe a more apt description is it’s a “graphic novel”-inspired flick. Call it what you want, Joker is one of the best movies (if not THE best) of 2019 and it makes this movie lover excited and intrigued to see what the DCU has in store for the future.
Julien Neaves, Editor
There are some movies that the more I think of it the more I like it. Unfortunately Joker is the opposite. Now don’t get me wrong. Phoenix is one of the greatest actors of our generation and here he gives one of his best performances that may likely nab him a long-delayed Oscar. Every word he speaks, every odd movement he makes, every time he makes that chilling laugh, every moment he is on screen is calculated, disturbing and downright brilliant. Robert De Niro is also in fine form as a sarcastic late night show host but the rest of the cast don’t have very much to do. The stylised visuals are also astounding so kudos to cinematographer Lawrence Sher (Hangover trilogy, Garden State). The music was good but oh my goodness it goes on forever and at times is so blaring I felt like they were trying to burst my eardrums.
I have two main issues with the film: the Joker is not “the Joker” and the film thinks it’s more clever than it actually is. Phoenix is fantastic and his dark journey intriguing but even when he goes full Joker he never resembles the nihilistic character we all know and love. He’s pretty much a killer with clown make-up. And that’s fine but disappointing, especially for a Batman and Joker fan myself. And I remember after the film trying to figure out what was the point. I think it is a cautionary tale about mental illness and neglect of the lower class but these issues are either dealt with clumsily or bluntly and loses much of the effect. This results in some developments feeling forced and unearned.
The links to the Batman mythos really felt like the powers-that-be were unsure the film could stand on its own merits, and sadly this ends up distracting more than helping the film. And I think Phillips engaged in a bit of directorial masturbation as a couple of scenes felt completely unnecessary and others went on longer than they should have. So I thought Joker was a great movie buoyed by a stand-out performance by Phoenix and it will rattle around your brain long after your credits roll. And while I would highly recommend it, if I said it was an excellent film I would be joking.
Ronan Anakin Maharaj, 16, Youth Reviewer
It is unfortunate that “Joker” is surrounded by controversy as an endorsement of violence. This film is not for the faint of heart. It is an emotionally intense and fairly graphic movie. Sometimes, it’s hard to watch. It’s clear that the writers know that we want to have hope for Arthur (the protagonist). It’s clear that they know that we don’t want to see Arthur become Joker. We want someone to reach out to Arthur and help him heal. “Joker” clearly aims to send a message about human relationships and/or the mentally ill. Each character does a great job at communicating this theme. As is fairly obvious, all of Arthur’s hope at human relationships fail. Most male serial killers think highly of their mother; a famous serial killer (Eric Harris) once said, “Good wombs hath born bad sons.” However, in Arthur’s case, his mother fails at helping him. She doesn’t give him the love and care that he needs. I cannot discuss the lady next door due to spoilers. If you watched the movie, it is very clear what her purpose is.
The remaining parts of the movie are filled with moments where we see the rest of society’s disrespect for him. Society doesn’t treat him with the respect and dignity he so desperately wants. His hand is outstretched for other people to like him, to laugh at his jokes, to love him. However, society slaps his hand away. The opening scene perfectly encapsulates this to the extent such that it could itself be considered a short film. In the opening shot, Arthur is putting on makeup and listens to the radio on the trash. Arthur uses his fingers to prop a smile and then a frown.
In the first scene, Arthur is dancing to promote something with a sign, as a clown. He gets hit on the head and his sign gets stolen. He runs after the thieves, a group of kids, only to run into a corner and get beaten up in the trash. The usage of dance and trash here are particularly notable. Every time Arthur should conventionally be sad, he dances. This is a sign of apathy or perhaps not caring. The fact that he gets beaten up surrounded by trash is meant to signify how he feels about himself. The usage of light and shot composition is also very interesting. Light generally has a positive connotation. However, in Joker, light is used to the interesting effect of apathy. Joker runs or dances in the light to show his lack of care in the world. The track selection is also very interesting. It grows with the character of Joker. It starts out very quiet and somber and gradually becomes more aggressive and sadistic.
To go back to story, the involvement of Bruce Wayne was a bit unnecessary. Thomas Wayne’s involvement provided fairly interesting fodder for the rest of the story to build upon. However, Bruce’s participation was superfluous. The film would have exceeded its expectations if it embraced its status as a stand-alone film by not dragging on its ending to connect it to a further plot. Overall, Joker does an excellent job at conveying its message. It makes a clear statement on reaching out to someone and helping people before its too late. Upon finishing this film, I unironically contacted an old friend to ask if they were okay.
Editor’s Note: A very special thanks to senior writer Sommer, aka the wind beneath my wings, and our youth reviewer Anakin. With your talent we hope you do more film reviews in the future.
For a collab review of Spider-Man: Far From Home you can click here.