[Review] JOKER is a Brilliant Film With a Stunted Symbol
SPOILER FREE: Everyone should see this film to form their own opinion. It feels more important to do so with this release than any other recent film, honestly - because the media is INTENT on defining the societal implications and our individual opinions on it's message for us. So don't let 'em.
After attending the local JOKER press screening for the studio (WB) last night, quite a few of us felt numb. Not due to the overblown media response, or anything remotely that dramatic, but was it from the actual film itself? That's still hard to answer. Is it a masterpiece? I honestly don't know. if it isn't - it's damn near close. Does it warrant multiples viewings? Yes. Definitely. But is it a film I see myself watching again immediately? Probably not.
I should follow that up by saying that it has never been my intention to inform the opinions of others when writing reviews. Instead, I attend press screenings for studios in order to give them direct feedback from an industry writer (me), and that is how I target my thoughts.
That being said, I am also very much of the opinion that this is, truly, a brilliant film. Everything from the cinematography to the score and absolutely the acting - all fire on all cylinders to create a complete, visceral and uniquely old-school experience unlike anything else in theaters this year.
Is it a new favorite of mine, though? No, not at all. I hold issue with the film being what it is at it's core: a JOKER film. Had this experience been of a newly conceived character, I would've been completely on board. It isn't, however, and instead we're treated to the harsh reality of a mentally-ill man without a stroke of genius in him by the end, who - despite Phoenix's masterful performance - lacks all the cerebral and orchestral qualities of the classic villain.
Will you be seeing JOKER in theaters?
My hangups are my own for this iteration of the character, as by the end of the film (after some truly excellent tie-ins to DC mythos) we're left with an unhinged mope who - in no way - could ever mastermind the sort of presence we're led to believe he will have in this plot line's future. Because of this, he is reduced to a stunted symbol - a symbol for everything that is wrong with society - trapped in the body of a man who will never be able to rise above said symbolism, let alone his own tragedy.
This, of course, may be enough for most. But for a passionate fan of the timeless villain, I was left wanting much more sharpness and wit from this incarnation.
Sadly, to me, Todd Phillips' JOKER comes off as more of a pity-party clown than a clown prince of crime, and this is largely due to the film's climax.
In true origin-film fashion, the entirety of the film is about getting us to this iteration of the Joker, not exploring his time as said beast. The amount of ballistic, tragic buildup with so little payoff, however, may leave others rather blase' after they realize what they've seen is indeed the climax to hours of Arthur's crippling struggles.
Take that for what you will, and again - I absolutely recommend everyone see this film to form your own opinion. It feels more important to do so with this release than any other recent film, honestly - because the media is INTENT on defining the societal implications and our individual opinions on it's message for us.
So don't let 'em.
Thanks again for having us, Warner Brothers. What a ride.