‘Joker’: A Breakdown of This Year’s Most Controversial Film

Joker (2019)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix

Directed by: Todd Phillips


Beware: this Tarantino-esque account of the origins of the Joker is not for the faint-of-heart. 



Joker is about Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix), an aspiring comedian living in Gotham City. He is always alone, with the exception of his job of being a clown and returning home to care for his mother. He is desperate for connection, though his attempts to make friends come up fruitless. Because of his condition, which forces him to laugh uncontrollably, he is tormented relentlessly for his actions and disregarded in his own world. Arthur becomes resentful of those unwilling to open their circle to him, leading him to wreak havoc on Gotham and everyone who lives there. This is how he becomes the Joker—the dreaded criminal mastermind he is known as in the Batman movie franchise. 


I was originally intrigued by Joker because of its controversiality. In 2012, there was a shooting that ended with 12 killed and 70 injured in Aurora, Colorado, during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Because of the relation of these two films, people have expressed their concern about the display of violence in Joker, specifically wanting it not to be glorified in any way. After hearing about this back-and-forth of the movie, I have since heard from friends that there are, in fact, police officers sitting in on Joker showings for security measures. However, if you are able to put aside thoughts of the controversy and approach it with no prior convictions, it is an excellent movie that addresses the reality of Arthur’s circumstances. 


Despite the debates, I went to see Joker with only two thoughts in mind: one, “This is supposed to be the movie of the year,” and two, “I have seen exactly zero of the Batman movies.” I never expected to leave the theater with both shock and an infinitely more open mind. From visual appeal to the overall dark nature of the film, Joker makes for a grimly interesting take on the beginnings of a villain. 


From Arthur’s personal vendettas to high-speed train fights, there is plenty of action in this film to be entertained by throughout. Arthur’s bizarre habits make for an unpredictable plotline, making it all the more exciting to watch.



Additionally, the casting was masterfully executed. Joaquin Phoenix impressed me with his interpretation of the Joker, which was, in a word, chilling. He successfully made Arthur into someone who would make you genuinely uncomfortable and uneasy with his presence. Phoenix is incredibly talented in becoming a broad array of characters, and this role is no exception.


The overall portrayal of Joker was enough to capture anyone’s attention. Just a couple of factors that contributed to the outstanding visuals are the color-scheme in costuming as well as the score, which both help to set the mood of the setting and the characters within it. For instance, the color palette used for Arthur’s clothing is dull and neutral at first but ends up being bright and colorful when embracing his Joker persona, creating a stark contrast to the world that surrounds him, which is cold, wet and gray. This determines that he is quite a bit different from everyone around him, and not who he once was. The musical score was also something that stood out to me—it was extremely captivating and seemed to mirror Arthur’s dramatic and violent yet graceful movements in the film, making it all the more alluring.


All in all, Joker is a unique film that analyzes the mind of a man in isolation, trapped with his feelings of revenge and plans of destruction. It is a fascinating movie definitely worth your time, covering everything that could possibly contribute to his descent into madness. If you have ever wondered why the Joker is the way he is in the Batman movies, then look no further. 



View the trailer here and check it out while it’s still in theaters!


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