When it was announced that a solo Joker movie would be released in late 2019, I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. Even after the announcement of Joaquin Phoenix was going to play the titular role. Not that I didn’t think he would be great in the role, but it was strictly because I had very little faith in Todd Phillips as a director. While some DC fanboys and uneducated moviegoers misconstrue a great performance makes a great film. It does not. Let’s not get into the whole ‘best picture‘ nonsense.
Unfortunately for Phillips, I have been watching movies far longer to see all the films of the seventies that he ripped off to create Joker. In many instances, it comes from a guy that has seen 1989’s Batman and The Warriors way too many times. Much like my thoughts on the film Judy, a great performance does not constitute a great film. The film was flat, uninspired, clichéd, and relied so much on its star that if he failed, the movie would’ve been there with The Hangover Part II and Due Date.
One of the most mythic villains in Batman lore isn’t supposed to have an origin. As was used in The Dark Knight, no one is supposed to know where he came from, even when spoken by the character himself. Yet, the film breakdowns the character to be a mistreated child, who suffers from brain damage, lied to by his mother about his lineage, and was mistreated by society. If you read The Killing Joke, it used the whole “one bad day” storyline. While I loved the story (the original comic), it was unnecessary. And the laugh being brought on by a anxiety condition? Come on.
Phillips is such an unconvincing director that he resorted to clichés about how everyone in the Gotham City was horrible. Robert De Niro was cast as the voice of the one percent, which was a huge opportunity to balance the dynamic and make the audience understand that Fleck’s (Phoenix) actions were wrong, but it chose not to. It decided to say that they only way we can take control – or watch things burn – was to get people on his side to riot.
The Joker isn’t designed to be an anti-hero, which is what Phillips and company thought was the best way to go. Yes, it made a lot of money, but that doesn’t constitute a great movie as many fanboys believe. Arthur Fleck was an unsympathetic, awkward, and unlikable character. Many of the people he killed directly were designed to be people that the audience would feel comfortable about their deaths. In many ways, it was DC’s attempt to make a villain an anti-hero. What are they doing? Playing it the Marvel way?
The Batman origin story at the end is where I gave up on the film entirely. Yeah, if you are a DC fanboy, you have masturbated to that scene many times over. But, it was unnecessary. The whole Thomas Wayne storyline was unnecessary. Where is the backlash? Phillips and company completely rewrote Thomas Wayne’s backstory to make him someone everyone would be okay with dying. Not only that, did we need the pearls thing again?! Why is it every time someone wants to do a Batman-adjacent or actual film do we need to see his parents die again?
Phillips and company knew that they had to have a Batman angle in there for total fan service. It was bad enough in ’89, they claimed that the Joker killed Wayne’s parents. Now, we have to relive that with the notion that Joker, however indirectly, created his own greatest foe. The greatness of this film relies solely on its star and the fan service. Also, with the way everyone in Gotham is portrayed, why does it need Batman? Carpet bomb that city and I’ll be fine with it.
Rating: 2 ½ stars.