There has been many interpretations and theories regarding the origin of the “JOKER”. The 1951 DC Comic book “The Man behind red hood” & the 1988 Graphic novel “Batman: The Killing Joke” followed the origin story of the Gotham’s prince of crime, but Since the premiere at the Venice Film Festivals, “Hangover” director Todd Phillips new take on Batman’s cackling nemesis has gained attention. Right from the announcement itself stirred up the movie goers. It is difficult to create a backstory that has never been told before and make a stand alone movie out of it, and “JOKER” does it in the most darkest and gritty way. Phillips’ standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen explores how Arthur Fleck played by Joaquin Phoenix, an aspiring stand up comedian, who has “Pseudo-bulbar affect” succumbing to and becoming the darkness due to the ill treatment of the society. The movie displays one of the best character development of recent times. Clearly a character study for acting and writing aspirants.
Todd Phillip’s repertoire was enough for the rise of doubt and eyebrows when the studio announced the project. But today proving everything wrong, he has given one of the best and solid origin stories of all time. He chose the early 80’s of Gotham city to tell the story of the most infamous super-villain. Since the realistic take on “Batman Begins” by Christopher Nolan, many directors tried to redefine the traditional treatment of the franchises and bring the over the top characteristics of protagonist into much more realistic platform. Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel”, Sam Mendes’ “Skyfall” are examples of above mentioned cinematic reality. “Joker” is no different except for the fact that it is about the origin of a villain.
Joker is so gritty and intense that at one point Phillip manages to draw the audience into the mind of the protagonist. Writer Scott Silver and Todd Phillips created one of the best written character in the history of cinema. one would approve Phillips’s placement of homages as effective and subtle. To mention a few, is the laughing condition of Arthur Fleck is something that has connection with 1922 film “The Man Who Laughs”, direct reference to the 1986 comic book “the dark Knight return” etc. Influence of Scorcese’s “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy” are evident through out the film. Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy, Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” and 1988 graphic novel Batman : The Killing Joke has inspired characteristics of Phillips to create Arthur Fleck.
Many great performances as the “JOKER” we have seen. Starting from Cesar Romero in “Batman : The Movie” to Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman to Mark Hamill’s vocals in 1992 “Batman: The Animated Series “ to the iconic and famous portrayal by Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”, an exception is Jared Leto in Suicide squad, not his fault the character was poorly written. Joaquin Phoenix had in front of him all these above mentioned great un-avoidable infectious performances of his pioneers and still he managed to surpass all of them and create a benchmark. Phoenix never lets us compare with any of his predecessors. He owned the role. Despite knowing the fact that people would compare his portrayal with Ledger’s because of the global wide popularity, he took role and fulfilled the challenge.
Although JOKER is disturbing and gritty, it is stirring and unnerving in equal measure. Todd Phillips’ cinematic achievement, you may call it. Joaquin Phoenix can be anointed as the standard bearer from now on.