Why so serious, DC?

by Andrea Lee / Staff Reporter

A typical take on the misunderstood comic book villain. Photo courtesy of IMDB.

As someone who is no stranger to superhero movies, I can honestly say that I went into 2019’s “Joker” film with an open mind. Director Todd Phillips is best known for writing and directing comedies such as The Hangover trilogy, “Road Trip” and “Due Date,” so the thought of Phillips directing a more serious film such as “Joker” was somewhat questionable to me. However, with the impressive casting of Joaquin Phoenix as the notorious DC Comics villain, “Joker” seemed destined to succeed on the big screen. 

Although I was aware of the controversies surrounding the film, I tried to avoid fixating on the media outrage surrounding “Joker” as today’s cancel culture often strips movies and TV shows of their reputation before audiences even have a chance to formulate their own thoughts and opinions. That being said, I did stumble across the glowing reactions that “Joker” was getting from celebrities such as Josh Brolin, who is no stranger to the superhero genre after starring in movies such as “Deadpool 2 “and “Avengers: Engame.” Needless to say, my expectations going into “Joker” were somewhat scattered.

With a copious amount of advertising and a 55 million dollar budget, I expected “Joker” to pay an ode to the legendary comic book character that many readers had found themselves drawn to—a complicated, twisted villain who represented the frustrations of Gotham City’s less fortunate residents. The first act of the film promised just that, as the brilliantly sinister and wickedly well-composed Joaquin Phoenix delivered a haunting performance of protagonist Arthur Fleck as audiences slowly watched him twist into his alter-ego of the Joker.

But halfway through the film, whatever expectations I had built up for “Joker” were quickly matched with utter disappointment. This film is a much more serious take on the origin story of DC’s favorite villainous clown, but it fails to stand on its own. “Joker” wants to be much more than the tragic villain origin story, but rather than setting up a complex character study of the troubled man that the Joker truly is, Phillips chose to illustrate a somewhat exhausted trope of “good guy gone bad.” 

Phoenix, although impressive in his ability to deliver the signature bone-chilling Joker chuckle, can hardly make up for the lack of a cohesive plot throughout the film. “Joker” fails to ever really follow the character arc of Arthur as he descends into madness, and instead just shows the repetitive and unsettling events of his day to day struggle with mental illness. When the movie reaches the big event that ultimately starts the Joker’s journey to becoming the famous killer clown, I found myself almost bored with the somewhat anticlimactic sequence. Despite the beautifully shot cinematography, I thought that the two hour run time was hardly worth my time and money due to the lack of action and relatively weak plotline.

5 out of 10 torches.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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