Joker is easily one of my favorite villains. Admittedly, the Batman universe has been my favorite since I was a kid and Jack Nicholson set the bar pretty high for what I expected out of the character. You can’t forget about Cesar Romero from the original Batman TV series starring Adam West. Although, as a child, I found the series and Batman: The movie from the 60s to be campy but entertaining. Then came Heath Ledger’s take on the role in The Dark Knight and had me questioning who my favorite Joker was. It was obvious that Ledger put everything he had into that role and was the darkest rendition of him yet. I’m not even going to waste my time with Jared Leto’s portrayal of Joker as it sucked out loud. Enter Joaquin Phoenix.
Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. Arthur wears two masks, the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he’s part of the world around him. Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.
Director Todd Phillips puts you in a front row seat to this slow descent into madness and Phoenix is driving at full speed. While this film feels slow at times, the slow build ups lead to some very graphic and gory crescendos. In a way, Joker is the anti-hero and you find yourself rooting for him in the end. This is obviously an origin story as it takes place when Bruce Wayne is still a child, and his father Thomas Wayne is running for Mayor of Gotham City to help improve the economic divide. There are some interesting linear comparisons of Gotham City and today’s society. The great divide between the rich and the poor, the tension between the people of the city and those in power, and all it takes is one “clown” to help propel the city into madness and anarchy. After watching this movie, I can’t stop thinking about the twisted character that Joaquin Phoenix played and I think he has taken the top spot as my favorite Joker. I highly recommend this movie for anyone, even if you’re not a huge Batman fan. Fair warning to parents, this movie is rated R for a very good reason. A lot of violence, blood, and murders by gunfire at point-blank range. Outstanding movie for a great escape into madness.