One of the most talked about films of last year hits blu-ray today from Warner Brothers, and it’s going to be as divisive at home as it was in the theatre. However you feel about it, you definitely realise that Joaquin Phoenix turns in a stellar performance.
From the old-school 70s Warner Brothers introduction to the lack of a DC logo at the beginning of the film, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips seems to want to ignore it’s own character’s long and twisted history and capitalise on those viewers who aren’t aware that Martin Scorsese exists and already.
That’s not to say it’s a bad movie, in fact, it’s quite good, and Joaquin Phoenix deserves all the accolades he garnered as he brings one of the most famous comic book villains ever created to life, the Joker. He also has the best Joker laugh after Mark Hamill – although medical condition? Sigh.
This origin story does its best to ignore the fact that it’s set in Gotham City (Batman’s home town) during the late 70s early 80s (can anyone say Neal Adams? – there’s definitely a feel to it) and that there are, conceivably, masked heroes already in the world. Instead it tries to go the grounded gritty route via Scorsese’s King of Comedy (which with Robert DeNiro’s casting is a little too on the nose) and Taxi Driver (see previous parenthetical notation).
It’s hard to empathise with Arthur (Joker before he’s Joker), which is what the film tries to make you do, when he doesn’t take any responsibility for any of his actions that lead to his downfall, or his rebirth as the Joker. That being said, I do like that mental illness is addressed fairly regularly in the film.
But the Wayne ‘reveals’ and where that leads? Rubbish. A film that wants to distance itself from its comic book origins and then wading into it wholeheartedly in an attempt to flesh out Arthur’s backstory… It didn’t need to run that way.
And honestly, there is nothing about this incarnation of the Joker that would give any Batman (with the exception of maybe Adam West) any difficulty in putting down. Yes, he’s insane, and I love the fact that that the film touches on mental illness, but he’s nowhere near as clever as he would have to be to take on the World’s Greatest Detective.
I’m a little divided on this one. Phoenix is brilliant, the story… I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’ll watch it again, and that’s the beauty of owning the blu-ray. Well that and the bonus features.
The extras on the blu-ray include a number of featurettes including Becoming Joker, a quick behind the scenes montage that shows the transformation Phoenix effected for the character.
There is Vision and Fury a twenty minute doc that takes us inside the making of the film, and Phillips work to bring the story to the screen. There’s Please Welcome… Joker, which is another short showing the many entrances Phoenix crafted for Joker’s television debut.
And finally there is A Chronicle of Chaos a montage of photos from the production that captures the feel of the film, as well as the important moments.
This Arthur Fleck version of the Joker isn’t the Joker we need, but it may be the Joker we deserve. Joker is available on blu-ray and DVD today from Warner Brothers.