Well, we finally made it. The long awaited Joker movie has arrived in cinemas, a modestly budgeted “superhero” movie that has exhaustingly made waves in the press over the last few months. How is it, you ask? Expect a whole lot of pseudo-psychology and grandiose visuals that have little-to-nothing to offer its supposed character-driven cinema.
Is it really a surprise at this point that Joaquin Phoenix gives another incredible performance? The man is reaching Daniel Day-Lewis/Gary Oldman levels of craft, and this is arguably more his movie than it is Director Todd Phillips’ (The Hangover). To his credit, Phoenix’s Arthur is fascinating to follow, and Robert De Niro deserves a mention as talk show host Murray Franklin. It’s remarkable how comfortable he comes off while Phillip’s King of Comedy references remind you how good that movie was.
But what continually keeps Joker from reaching the greatness it teased during promotion is within its narrative structure. We’ve seen the plot points a million times before with films like Phoenix’s You Were Never Really Here coming to mind, though that was leaps and bounds better. It’s also obvious that through the edgy dreck, a true auteur would have relished an opportunity to explore real psychopathy on screen. Point is, Joker is a Todd Phillips film, the director of gems such as Road Trip and Old School, and his run-of-the-mill, vapid-bro tendencies shine through the veneer of this one. In fact, outside of the stunning partnership between the production design and cinematography, it’s hard to compliment anything else; even Atlanta‘s Zazie Beetz as a love interest of sorts is forgettable.
Regardless of all the complaints, Joker remains a tremendous reach for DC Films and Warner Bros, and that willingness to think outside the box should be viewed as a partial success. When the market is loaded with cardboard cutout characters in fake-looking outfits, staring off into space when not engaging in a massive CGI battle, at least we have something different here. If this movie proves to be a success, maybe it'll allow someone down the line to make a wholeheartedly good piece of cinema in the comic book genre.
+Pretty visuals; Phoenix's powerhouse talents
-Replaces character examination with lazy plot engines; fails to carry cinematic weight
Directed by Phillips
With Phoenix and De Niro
Violet Crown, Regal (both locations), R, 121 min.