nflinching in its portrayal of pure insanity, the film not only spins a new origin story, but also presents a new version of Batman’s nemesis. This is neither the devilishly intelligent, nor the nightmarish, witty Joker found in previous installations. 

Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker lacks the charm of Jack Nicholson, and the calmness of Heath Ledger. He also has no agenda outside of a personal one. Rather than spreading chaos, Arthur assuages his own misery. His crimes are crimes of passion, not anarchic statements against society. 

Only once a following spawns after his first murders, does Arthur view his crimes as anything more than an outlet for rage. At the very end, Arthur rubs blood into his smile, completing his character arch and becoming the Joker audiences know all too well. 

Prior to this, a brand-new identity is given to the world-renowned villain. Arthur starts off as a tortured, but not evil character. His intention is to spread joy as a clown, though his mental illness makes him an easy target for countless bullies roaming the garbage-riddled streets of Gotham. From children, to Wall Street Workers, and even his own Mother, Arthur is brutally beaten down by all those around him. 

The only exception is his girlfriend, who shares his disdain for life. Arthur shows his humanness as he holds the elevator for her. After Arthur’s first murders, he is intimate with her for the first time and their relationship grows, as she watches Arthur suffer through his stand-up routine. She also endorses the killing of the rich, though unaware Arthur committed the murders. She even comforts Arthur at his sickly Mother’s bedside.  

However, the full extent of his madness becomes apparent when the audience learns Arthur has been fantasizing all of these interactions. In other words, the only human connection he seems to maintain, turns out to be entirely fabricated.  

A film with only five deaths shown on screen, “Joker” deserves none of the heat it is getting regarding a connection between gun-violence and movies. One reviewer went so far as to question whether movies like this should even be made. However, more people die from gun violence in the first five minutes of “Godzilla – King of Monsters”.. It is true, the film is grim and grungy from start to finish, earning its rating of R. To question its right to exist though, is completely unfounded.  

If any social comment were made in the movie, it would come when the Social Services of Gotham are closed down and Arthur goes off of his seven medications. As his shrink says in their final meeting, “They don’t give a shit about people like you, Arthur.” Arthur takes this to heart. His life transforms from a tragedy into a comedy, as he tells his shrink, “Now I know I exist. And people are starting to notice.” 

Photos by
Consequence of Sound