So… I’ve been putting off off reviewing this for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I was trying to track down Werewolf – An awesome sounding Polish film whereupon a group of children liberated from a Nazi concentration camp have to overcome hunger, thirst and vicious dogs in an abandoned mansion surrounded by the forest. Which sounded fascinating. And- shockingly for 2019 appeared not to be based off of a comic book.
But I wasn’t able to find screening that worked so I found myself staring down the barrel of a screening of Joker, the 832nd comic book film that I think I’ve seen this year. It’s directed by the guy who also directed the Hangover trilogy and it’s gotten so much more attention and think pieces than it deserves.
I mean, for all the people complaining about having the Joker without Batman, you do remember that Gotham has only just finished being a thing, right? That was literally a whole TV show about Batman’s villain but without Batman. Besides, the Waynes get shoehorned in anyway when they could and indeed should have been off-screen characters.
Then there are the complaints about all the ‘disturbing’ violence. Now, maybe I’ve seen too many over the top films but I found the violence to be pretty tame for what the film could have done and indeed the horrifying violence that The Joker is known for. I mean it isn’t glamorized in any way and it towards the end there’s a scene that could have been shocking if the film had gone as far as it could and indeed should have. Personally, I was more disturbed by the scene is last years Teen Titans Go To The Movies where our heros go back in time and literally shove the Waynes down Crime Alley to their deaths.
I mean, for a guy who’s only made ‘comedies’ before this is a really good first try at making an adult, serious film of the type that got made in the 80’s before it became impossible to get anything made that isn’t a reboot or based off of a comic book.
Yeah, this isn’t your standard superhero film, it’s slow, showing us how a a man (played amazingly by an almost certain to be nominated for but not to win an Oscar – Joaquin Phoenix). who looses what little he has, faces dark revelations from his past, gets failed by the mental health system, then accidentally inspires some kind of protest movement against the rich, one of his terrible stand up gigs goes viral (which DID NOT happen in the 80’s) lending him a moment in the spotlight AND he has some sort of relationship trouble with all the women in his life.
Now, if that sounds like a lot to cram in to a film with a 122 minute run-time then you’d be right. It’s also why the film came across to me as simply unfocused. You could have removed any of the plot threads and I think it would have been a better, tighter experience. I love Taxi Driver as much as anyone but you cant just swap out Travis Bickle with a clown and think that you’ve made the modern version of a classic.
Oh, one quick note, a fairly pivotal scene towards the end features a song by Gary Glitter, a convicted pedophile who is currently at Her Majesty’s pleasure and, as a result of this film stands to possibly make hundreds of thousands of pounds which I find completely unforgivable. Two seconds on Google could have prevented this and that’s all i’m going to say on the matter.
Back to Joker and I find that this film looks great, it’s dark and moody and just has this sense of unrelenting misery and pressure as Flecks support network is picked apart piece by piece but to me, after the first violent scene, the film just doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with itself. I mean, Joker has such little faith in itself that our lead at the end delivers a monologue on the ‘moral’ of the film that we just watched as though it’s a damn Saturday morning cartoon, if you have that little faith that your film has gotten it’s point across then just rewrite your film!
Joker is such a disappointment that I barely even know where to start. Yes, Pheonix is amazing, but laving him aside we find a very 2019 film in in 1980’s wrapping, it’s slow and yet overstuffed, it needed streamlining and then to go further with what it had. If you want to make a disturbing film, then make a disturbing film. Don’t just try and remake Taxi Driver because that’s not going to work for you. I don’t have an issue with the pacing or the tone but I would have made it more violent and actually given it something to say. The ingredients are here for something dark and disturbing as an ordinary man, through a run of bad luck turns into one of the most violent villains in comic book history. But that’s not this film. Oh, and get rid of the damn Waynes. No, not like that!
Which is a shame. Now, if you’ll excuse me i’m off to re-imagine other classic films as origin stories.
The Wizard of Doom?
Gone With The Magneto?
Some Like It Dark(Seid)?
My Score- Skip It