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    • When it comes to comic book films, the stories always revolve around the heroes. Rarely is a film ever about the villain. In fact, origin stories are almost exclusively dedicated to heroes. The only origin films I can think of that don't tell the story of a hero's humble beginnings are Deadpool and Venom, but they aren't really "villains" either, they're more in between, more anti-hero than villain. But the Joker? He's a straight up villain. If Batman and Spider-Man are pop culture's go-to superheroes, each with numerous films, TV shows, and video games to their names, the Joker is the equivalent on the villainous side of the comic book world. Other than Thanos in recent years, I don't think any comic book villain has enjoyed as much of the spotlight as Joker, and rightfully so. As a character that has evolved and changed tremendously over decades, the Joker is a real enigma. Without a "true" origin and motivations that seem at best, completely random and unpredictable, the Joker is possibly the most versatile, adaptable, and flexible comic book character in existence. A fact that director Todd Phillips uses to his advantage in the film. Together with Joaquin Phoenix's incredible portrayal of the character, Joker is easily one of the best films of the year. I'll avoid any major spoilers in this review, but if you want to go into the cinema completely spoiler-free, I suggest you watch the movie first then come back and share your thoughts.

      The Joker has had various "origins" over the years, with a fall into a vat of acid being the common link between most of them. Sometimes, he just doesn't have an origin, like Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight. He doesn't even have a real name like every other comic book character. This is one reason why the film is so good. The Joker has never been given such a complex and sophisticated origin story, with layers upon layers of character development. The film explores how someone like the Joker could possibly come into existence in a more grounded and believable way. Arthur Fleck (Joker's real name in the film) is continually abused, both physically and emotionally until one day he just snaps. In fact, his snap isn't instantaneous. His first steps into the character that is "The Joker" take place somewhat by accident. They were unintentional. But once he took those first steps, his descent into madness started to gain momentum as he continued to suffer more personal trauma until he begins to accept that his life isn't a tragedy, but a comedy, and he fully embraces his "true" self. The birth of the Joker in this film isn't something intentional. A man didn't wake up one morning and decide to be a criminal in clown makeup. It wasn't accidental either. He didn't suffer a mental and psychiatric breakdown as a result of falling into acid. It just sort of, happened. As the Joker said in The Killing Joke, all it took, was one bad day. Or in the case of Arthur Fleck, several bad days.

      Heath Ledger's Joker had a similar point of view.

      Speaking of Heath Ledger, comparisons between his portrayal and Joaquin Phoenix's are unavoidable. Ledger's version of the Joker has been my ultimate favourite. His character was sophisticated, deeply philosophical, remarkably aware of societal issues, and his Oscar winning performance was simply incredible. The thing is, I can say the exact same things about Phoenix's performance as well (talk of an Oscar is picking up steam). Some people think they have to choose a favourite, but I won't. The Joker as I said earlier, is incredibly versatile as a character, and as such his portrayals by different actors are just as versatile. At one end of the scale you have Jared Leo's Joker, which we should all try our best to forget. At the other end, the Joker of both Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix. One character, two incredible actors, two incredible performances.

      The movie was just crazy good. That's how I'll end my post. Excellent cinematography, amazing writing and character development, and an astounding performance by Joaquin Phoenix. And by the way, there's a pretty exciting twist at the end involving another DC Comics character. I think you can guess who it is.

      A truly epic comic book film that will go down in history as one of the all-time greats.

    • One of the most character-defining traits of the Joker is his laugh. Mark Hamill's laugh is possibly one of the most recognisable, and Joaquin Phoenix wanted to make sure he got it right for his own portrayal of the character as well.

      I think he did a brilliant job as his laugh is a constant and integral element in the film.

    • Excellent review...

      ...but I live too close to Colorado and recall the absolute horror of the deranged massacre to go into a movie theater and watch this film. Maybe when it gets to Netflix...

    • I was contemplating writing about the criticism the film received for being "too violent", but decided against it because I consider it a non-issue.

      The film is violent sure, but no way is it the most violent film ever.

      And I never thought about commenting about the gun violence in the film because it's even less of an issue than violence in general. Maybe it's because I'm not as sensitive to such an issue - and this is a spoiler warning if you want to avoid it - but Joker only intentionally uses a gun once throughout the entire film to murder one man. He used it in self-defence when three men were beating him up, but other than that he never uses the gun for anything else. There were no mass shootings of any kind in the film.

      Now again, I have to say that I'm not downplaying or trivialising any discomfort or trauma that people in the US might be feeling because of this film if they've been affected by mass shootings. We all know how common those happen, and I can sympathise with them. But at the same time, it's unfair to criticise or even suggest that such a good film be taken out of cinemas because of real-world gun violence. We can't realistically expect studios to ban guns or violence from all future films.

      It's a very tricky and sensitive subject, and everyone will have their own opinion on it. As such, I don't feel that there's a need to ban the film, or even criticise it for being "too violent". From my perspective, you definitely shouldn't bring your kids to watch it (it is R-rated after all), but it's nowhere near as violent as some people are making it out to be. Definitely not Game of Thrones level of violence for sure.

    • @JazliAziz

      Although I don't share @lidja's take on this, I think I understand what she is writing about and I think you may misunderstand her take on this subject.

      @lidja is not talking about mass killings in general. She is writing about one SPECIFIC event involving a BATMAN movie.

      In 2012, during a showing of the movie The Dark Knight Rises, a man in the theater in Aurora, CO opened fire on the people who had come to see that specific movie.

      Because this happened during a Batman movie, there are some people who associate this new movie with that incident.

      I'm not writing to promote that view nor to criticize you but rather to say that the problem revolves around the fact that the Joker is part of the Batman mythos not just mass violence.

    • For the record, the victims who were interviewed in the article I posted are not angry that the film has been made nor are they angry that it is being shown. They just wish that Warner Brothers was a little less anxious to support the NRA and a little more anxious to deal with them as human beings. (These victims aren’t even telling WB what to make or to produce, though there may be others who are making that argument, I don’t know.)

      The connections I can’t seem to shake personally are

      1) the element of mental illness/fragility on the part of the gunman and the main character of this movie

      2) the killer’s famous mug shot which showed him with bright orange hair (recalling the fake hair of the most famous clown/joker of my youth, Bozo)

      3) the killer specifically targeting an audience watching a Batman movie, and during a particularly brutal scene when the audience could not differentiate between what was happening on the screen and what was happening in the theater.

      I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the film, which I haven’t seen. And I don’t mean to call into question anyone’s choice to see this film either. I just meant to comment on how the film adds new layers to a painful event that is in the past for most of us, but still very much effects the lives of a few.

      As I said... you shared a great review! I always look forward to reading your thoughts about current films. 👍🏻 This one just happens to be on my “can’t watch that in a theater” list.

    • I wasn't really replying to her post per se, but I used it as a segway to explain why I didn't write about the reactions to the film in my review. I read about the shooting that occurred in the cinema during the screening of TDKR back when it happened, and I can understand why some people might be apprehensive about watching another movie related to Batman in the cinema. But my response was more general and not highlighting any specific incident.

      Hope that clarifies my thoughts.

    • I did read the article before I replied to your post. The family was very fair and like you said, didn't critique the film or the production of it, but rather their comments were more politically motivated, talking about gun lobbying and funding for the NRA etc. As I replied to @Shewmaker above, my reply to you was more generic in nature, responding to the criticism the film received, which I don't really agree with. I don't feel like I should talk about American politics, gun laws, NRA funding etc because for starters, I'm not well informed enough to write about such things, and secondly, I didn't want to taint my review with a political undertone.

      Thanks for the positive feedback btw, and I hope there's no hard feelings.

    • Thanks for the positive feedback btw, and I hope there's no hard feelings.

      No hard feelings at all, JazliAziz! I look forward to your next review!

      BTW, I try to see all of the Oscar-nominated films for Best Picture in Jan-Feb before the awards. I look forward to some interesting conversations then!

    • The film has just broken into IMDb's top 10 movies of all time.

      The film's IMDb rating has actually increased to 9.0 at the time I'm posting this, from more than 204k ratings.