Joker is as far away from the the current phase of superhero / antihero films that I don’t think you could even classify itself as such. It’s a psychological thriller that happens to be set in a superhero universe and man is it gloriously dark.
With subtle nods to the universe it is a part of it manages to tell THE origin story one of DCs most iconic characters without repeatedly hitting you in the face with “IM BATMAN!” This film is all about Arthur Fleck aka Joker and Joaquin Phoenix plays this complex role beautifully.
Arthur is a troubled character, who from the off, is shown to be mentally ill but not a bad person. He loves his mother, looks after her and dreams of being a famous stand up comic. Unfortunately for him the world is selfish, greedy and has no time for people struggling with anything, let alone mental illness. It is from this, and after being pushed too far, that what will become the Joker starts to bubble up to the surface…
He is not only a product of his environment but the catalyst for change in a city that cares little for the underdog and more about the 1% . In this way he becomes a hero himself, in a very dark and twisted form but one that people gravitate towards. Gotham and it’s favourite son, Thomas Wayne, care little about the plight of the many and the complexity of the society but the joker, in a simple act of retaliation gives birth to a rebellion and in effect creates Batman.
Joker isn’t an action packed, explosion filled, Superhero trope laden caper, replete with cheesy jokes and one liners. No, it’s a dark, gritty, in some ways brutal and disturbing cautionary tale of how society, ignored, abused and left to fester, will retaliate and lay low those who ignored it for years; the avatar of its rage and dissolution manifesting in Arthur Fleck’s Joker.
If you want to see the generic comic book joker, you won’t get it; if you want cheesy lines and Easter eggs galore ( there are some) you won’t get it; if you want a cliffhanger ending and an after credit scene that links into a new film… you won’t get it. What you will get is a realistic and dark origin story that lays the foundation for THE greatest Joker portrayal the DCU has managed to date; Heath Ledger included.
A must watch.