Let’s be honest – the Joker has always been the most likeable comic book villain, so it wasn’t a stretch to think the movie detailing the maniacal clown’s origin would be good.
But for it to be this good, this relatable, and this relevant to how society treats mental illness today left me wondering if I was really watching the “bad guy” throughout the whole movie.
Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the lunacy that can manifest and eventually boil over from constant bullying and mistreatment of people who aren’t “normal” should strike an uncomfortable nerve that coincides with what’s going on in America today in terms of mass shootings, and potentially why they happen so frequently.
Now, to be fair, going into this movie I had heard there was a lot of gore and grim violence. After watching it, I realize whoever the people are who made that assessment either must not be familiar with the Joker character as a whole, or they haven’t really watched a truly over-the-top violent movie.
Everything about this film made perfect sense (including the Joker’s kills) and was presented in such a suitable way that you could have went into this without knowing anything about Batman or the Joker and come away with a fresh introduction into how their lives became intertwined through chance.
If the list of actors who were cast in this role had to be ranked, at this point it would be Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix deadlocked at the top with pretty much all the rest following behind. That’s not to take anything away from prior Jokers, as they’ve all been great, but Ledger and Phoenix both made you empathize with the Joker’s sinister logic at times, because… well, most of what he says is the uncomfortable, yet undeniable truth.
It seems most kids grow up wanting to be like Batman. As we get older, however, the reality sets in that most of us have more in common with the social outcast that gets treated like crap and pushed to the edge of their own sanity on a daily basis, rather than a billionaire whose wealth was inherited from the loss of his parents. And therein lies the dilemma in looking at Joker as a truly bad guy. He never killed anyone, in this particular movie, merely for the sake of doing it – he just got tired of people fucking with him and fought back.
All I know is, we need more of Joaquin’s Joker, ASAP.