One of the main premieres of the fall was the psychological thriller Joker, which tells about the rise of the most famous comic book villain in the world. Immediately after its release, “Joker” managed to receive many positive reviews, both viewers and critics, because according to the majority, this film conquers not only with the excellent play of Joaquin Phoenix, but also with a completely author’s direction, different from everything that was released by DC previously.
Nevertheless, “Joker” is still a product of DC Films, which, according to the studio itself, has nothing to do with Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, or the DC universe as a whole. Despite this, the story shown in the film, albeit in part, but still has several points of contact not only with the famous trilogy, but also with the Joker character in particular. Below we will try to understand what Todd Phillips’ “Joker” has in common with all other films with the participation of the iconic character; how the new “Joker” differs, and thus stands out from all other pictures; and how skillfully his script and plot twists destroy the canons of comic-book films. Go.
Hidden meaning: new or still old Joker
The Joker, as a classic comic book villain, has gone through one of the most branching paths of becoming through appearances in comics, films, cartoons, and television series. In every new project, since his debut appearance in the Batman comic (May, 1940), the character, image and behavior of the Joker have undergone changes. Thus, in the first issues of comics, the Joker character, who does not have his past (they simply did not have time to write it), is an evil and cynical killer, whose image, although not completely, but formed the basis of the Joker Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and the Joker Joaquin Phoenix.
Since 1954, when the Comics Code came into force (a document with recommendations for reducing violence in comics), the image of the Joker began to lose its previous drink. From a cruel killer clown, he turned into just a clown, frightening his enemies with various tricks and traps. This is how the Joker was portrayed in Batman (1966) and in the TV series of the same name (1966-1968).
The next in line was his own comic strip about the Joker (1975) in which the rather popular, but frivolous villain began to return to basics. The movie “Batman” (1989) by Tim Burton embodies the Joker not only as an opponent of Batman, but as a rather dangerous psychopath. By the way, this film is known not only for the partial return of the “former” Joker, but also for the creation of a dark, dangerous and dirty Gotham City, the atmosphere and appearance of which will be the main scenery of the trilogy by Christopher Nolan, and “Joker” by Todd Phillips.
Thus, to the piggy bank of similarities between Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker and everyone else, we add the cruelty from the first comics and Joker Heath Ledger, the mental disorders of the Joker Jack Nicholson and the desire to be the clown / comedian of the Joker Cesar Romero. Nevertheless, no matter how we feed on gluing the image of a new villain, it should be understood that the Joker of Joaquin Phoenix is not an anarchist, an irrationalist or a nihilist; not a hero hungry for blood, revenge or trials; not a jester, a murderer or a genius mind, but a lonely broken person, whose illegal actions served to awaken the same lonely and broken people. A kind of symbol of human tolerance and intolerance at the same time.
Main idea: the absence of the classic protagonist and antagonist
One of the most obvious, and probably the most significant difference of “Joker” from the rest of the world of comic book films, is the lack of images of the protagonist and antagonist, understandable to all. But the lack of only understandable, because the images of the “good” and “bad” guys in “Joker” are, but have undergone a colossal rethinking. Thus, Arthur Fleck (Joker), a person with complex mental disabilities, who loses psychological help, a robot, faith in people, a girl and a mother, is contrasted with the indifferent Gotham City and the rich rude Thomas Wayne in particular. The latter, by the way, calls poor people clowns, is unable to provide at least some assistance to his former employees and believes that only his candidacy as a measure will save the city. Such a reversal of roles, no matter how absurd it may seem,
How “Joker” destroys the canons of films based on comics
Each new plot twist of “The Joker” skillfully combines a complex psychological drama, the absence of any clichés, a tense atmosphere and everything that is missing, but so lacking in popular comic-book films. Nevertheless, “Joker” (2019) is not the first DC project in which the film studio decided to move away from the usual cliché and do something extraordinary. “Keepers” (2009) by Zach Snyder, although they were not entirely the author’s, were by Burton’s dark and rather unpredictable in terms of the script and the characters of the main characters. Unfortunately, this did not stop him from failing at the box office, and the studios stop experimenting until 2019.
The release of a completely atypical “Joker” divided its viewers into two equal camps. The first admired. The unusual way of reading, novelty and originality, coupled with the excellent performance of Joaquin Phoenix, breaks the perception of classic films about villains. It turns out they can be done this way: without dull and background characters, boring dialogues and pointless battles, which often do more harm than good. The latter were perplexed, because from a movie called “Joker” you expect everything that is written a little above.
The conflict of perception was reinforced not only by the name, but also by the final image of the Joker, which simultaneously resembles the cult hero from The Dark Knight and the Joker from the 1975 comic strip of the same name.
This also includes the line with Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce Wayne, whose murder at the end of the film so clearly echoes the murder in Batman Begins (2004) and Batman (1989). And also the scene where the happy Joker watches multiple acts of vandalism from the window of the police car, which skillfully echoes the scene in The Dark Knight where the equally happy Joker looks out of the window of the police car on the move.
Such assumptions allow the new “Joker” to be at the same time independent – remove these references and nothing will change, and show respect for other, already cult movies about the famous villain.
“The Joker” by Todd Phillips is not a superhero movie at all, although it has a couple of obvious references, which skillfully balances between “one man drama” and “complex psychological thriller”, thereby exposing the most dangerous vices of society. Recommended.