When Joker came out last year, I was in no great hurry to see it. I was curious, but not that curious, and the dialogue surrounding it only exacerbated this. I finally took the plunge, better late than never, right?
Let me get out of the way that Joaquin Phoenix acts well and Lawrence Sher’s cinematography has come a long way since Dukes of Hazzard. Joker is a solid movie; its more measured cheerleaders were right about it, and its most stalwart critics were wrong about it. Sadly, I can also see why a cohort of disillusioned angry young men took this as their banner movie, their generation’s Falling Down: the everyman pushed too far until the only logical next step is violence. Do I think Joker is an instigator of such a mindset? No, that’s madness; and it’s confusing symptom and cause. I think Todd Phillips created something he believed in, and my issue is not with his execution of the vision, but with the vision itself. With the idea that after two hours of relentless misery, surely even the best of us would snap, to want to see the world burn. That neglect and abuse and brain damage and just the right amount of pressure can create a monster who only truly smiles, only really dances when he has murder on his mind.
Overall for me, and I know I stand at odds with many here, Joker is good, not great.
And what about the “Lore”? The wider DC mythos?
I have an even more personal view here: For me, it diminishes the monstrous, horrific, only-hurts-when-I-laugh, shamanic spirit of chaos that is the Joker, if it could have been anybody who had been dealt a series of bad hands. Phillips’ Joker isn’t a Monster, terrifying for his inhumanity; he’s a sick boy whose mother didn’t love him enough. Kind of how I feel about this movie. And why I’m dreading the talk of a sequel.