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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Joker

September 30th, 2019 by Marc Comments

Joker (15)
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro & Zazie Beetz
Running time: 2hrs 1min

Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Arthur Fleck seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. Arthur wears two masks, the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he’s part of the world around him. Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.

Oooooooooh, boy.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months, you’ll know that there’s a standalone Joker movie coming out. You’d know it’s nothing to do with the rest of the DC movies, you’d know it stars Joaquin Phoenix and you’d likely know it was co-written and directed by Todd Philips, the man who brought us, em, The Hangover trilogy.

What you may also know is that the movie is getting a lot of criticism for portraying and glorifying a troubled white man who ends up becoming an anti-hero.

What you may not know, however, is that it is a remarkable, powerful, intense and in many ways beautiful in its bleakness piece of art.

And, yes, it’s entirely unmissable.

The movie, obviously, charts the rise of Joker, one of, if not the, greatest comic book villains of all time. It is a new take on the character, fresh in its approach to a  story that has been relayed several times, although has never – even here – been definitive.

It does a wonderful job early on of establishing that nothing you see is to be trusted… or is it? After all, in Brian Bolland and Alan Moore’s definitive take on The Joker, The Killing Joke, the character says: “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”

It’s a horror show for the mind – with abrupt bits of physical horror too – that traps you in a situation that seems to have no light at the end of it, with our central character Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) living with a troubled past, with his poorly mother, in a Gotham City of the (likely) late 1970s that is sitting on the edge of an abyss of madness from which it may never return.

It is sick and dying – rats infest the city as homeless people lie dying in the streets and jobs are few and far between unless you’re working for Wayne Industries, the gleaming beacon of hope shining on Gotham. But sadly, the light isn’t very bright and the darkness is threatening to take over and the city needs a new saviour… someone they can look up to.

And it’ll be at least 20 years until the Dark Knight rises. In the meantime, Joker will have to do.

Phoenix’s performance is an absolute powerhouse of uneasy madness which threatens to bubble to the surface throughout – in the absence of order, chaos thrives and there is nothing orderly about Arthur’s life.

His character is sympathetic. There’s no point in lying – it’s the lynchpin the fears about the movie rests on, and he is. Every action he takes come from another event… until it doesn’t.

Arthur is a lost soul, discarded, lied to, abused and as he spirals out of control we understand it. However, we never sympathise with the monster, worse, the beacon, he becomes. If there’s not at least a nomination for a little gold figurine in the future for Phoenix, there’s no justice.

Steeped in the grime of the 1970s, the camera angles of Scorsese, the stark muted beauty of New York circa Taxi Driver, the movie is once dated and oddly timeless. It’s a stroke of genius setting it in this period and, while it is refreshing to finally get a tale with a start, middle and end, it feels like a world festering over, and that could house Mr Freeze, Lex luthor and all manner of cast-out creatures just waiting to find their place in the chaos.

Joker was the rare thing – I normally look forward to a movie and then feel inevitably disappointed when I see it, but not this time; it was everything I hoped and knew it would be and so much more.

Unmissable, new, fresh and oddly old-fashioned, it’s a movie that will likely make its mark felt on comic book movies going forward and proves, without question, that when it comes to deep, thought provoking characters, DC is miles above the rest.

In a world where disposable, brightly coloured and oddly empty comic book movies are becoming the norm, Joker just danced in and has forever unset the apple cart.

If I had one complaint it would be in the plot device of Arthur/Joker’s misery… it never lets up, not once, but I guess it leads us to the powerful end and it would be untrue to say there’s not a couple of very dark chuckles throughout.

But by the time the character reaches his crescendo, it’s a hair-raising experience that gives us a new take on a character that may just become as iconic as Moore and Bolland’s work and gives us a new angle on a character who we’ve never really had a grasp of. The madness of the Joker starts here.

Unrelenting, powerful and astonishing, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen… hell, I didn’t even eat my chocolate buttons and if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

5 out 5 Nerds

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….