‘Joker’: A Brilliant Comic Origin Story That’s All About One Messed Up Character

Joaquin Phoenix is a tour de force in "Joker," a unique deep dive into the mind of an Average Joe who became an iconic comic-book villain.

Joaquin Phoenix is going to win the best actor Oscar for “Joker.” I’m not the first to say it and I won’t be the last.

He did an amazing job! He was crazy, sad, tortured, scary, and psychotic. It was nice to see a good origin story on how one of the most iconic characters in cinema and comic books comes to be.

The movie is set in Gotham City (New York City) in what looks like the 1970s (I can’t believe the amount of garbage on the streets). This adds so much texture to the movie as it makes you feel like living there alone can turn you into a lunatic.

“Joker” is a pretty deep movie, far from the typical cookie-cutter movie plots that often play out in the comic book movies. it has layers on how someone that nobody is paying attention to can transform, and all the little things that lead to that person losing their mind.

I am trying not to give away any spoilers because director Todd Phillips did a great job of keeping the audience guessing if some scenes are real or just in Joker’s twisted mind. The movie is a slow burn of watching a character self-destructing in front of an audience.

What I liked about the Movie: ***mild spoilers ahead**

– It was nice to see a movie that is just character-driven. No special effects, no car chases, and no gratuitous violence. Everything that happens is to set up the story of The Joker. The director wants you inside Joker’s head and that is what you get.

– The cast was great. I mean, Robert DeNiro as talk show host was actually very clever (I think I would watch that show in real life). The great Frances Conroy (Myrtle Snow from “American Horror Story”) was stellar as Joker’s deranged mother. Zazie Beetz does perfect work as Sophie, Joker’s love interest. I predicted she would be a star after she played Domino in “Deadpool 2” and here she is in one the biggest films of the year (humble brag, time!).

– You could not take your eyes of Phoenix. The movie is obviously an ode to late-’70s films and anti-hero films. He was like Travis Bickel (De Niro) in “Taxi Driver.” – both going slowly insane as the audience is along for the ride. (Ironic since an older De Niro is featured here.)

What I did not like about the movie:

– We don’t really see the one aspect of what makes the Joker a great fictional character/villain. Joker is always a few steps ahead of whatever he is showing you. He is crazy, but extremely clever.

We never really see this in “Joker” — all his actions/violence are right upfront. See the opening scene of The Dark Night (2008) where he tricks all the other bank robbers to kill each other as they finish their task. If you want to know more about Joker read the graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke by

Allan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta).

Best Line in the Movie:

Arthur Fleck (Joker) after getting fired. He walks out, then walks back in and says, “I forgot to punch out.”

Then starts punching the punch in/out clock right off the wall.

Academy Award for the dirtiest movie city ever goes to Gotham City. You can almost smell the garbage through the screen.

Grading this movie on anti-hero movie scale — with “Psycho” (1998 remake, that was so terrible) being a zero and “Hannibal” (2001) being a 10 — I would give “Joker” an 8.7 which, is about an “American Psycho” (2000).

Here’s the trailers for the two movies I referenced as the bar setters here.

 

 

 

 

Val Davila
Val Davila is a lifelong Merrimack Valley resident and one of the founders of the Davila & DeFusco Insurance Agency in Methuen. Val has been our pop culture guru since the beginnings of Loop Weekly and is a fan of all things movies and TV.