Joker – Review
I should apologize for not getting a review up sooner. I just couldn’t get to see it until it had been out a week. Nevertheless, I went to see one of the most talked about comic book films this month. Of course, in talking about this movie, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll spoil something for someone.
The film starts off very slow and very dark. Arthur Fleck is a very pitiful man and it’s hard to see someone who is mentally ill starting down the road to complete homicidal insanity. It’s so uncomfortable to watch, especially knowing that his mental illness will be blamed for his villainy. That’s a connotation that does not need to be reinforced.
Let’s look at the origin given in Batman: The Killing Joke. He was a completely sane man who’s completely normal desire to provide for his wife and unborn child drives him to one desperate act of crime. When they die tragically, he’s caught in this scheme. It goes bad and that tragedy gets compounded by being maimed by chemicals after being kicked into a vat by Batman. He’s driven criminally insane by becoming Joker, not the other way around.
When the movie takes off, Fleck’s murder of three young professional assailants sends Gotham City into a class war. What follows is a ride down his insanity. He imagines people that are not there, which leads us into questioning how much of this film is actually happening and how much is in his mind. His delusions are most likely hereditary. His mother’s belief that she had a romance with Thomas Wayne drives him to discover how much his mother has lied to him.
Once he becomes the Joker, killing a former co-worker and confronting the talk show host that ridiculed him, he comes into his own. He becomes a fully compelling character. Unfortunately, that bothers me. The main reason that I disliked the ending of Venom is that the villain is the hero, but without making any change. Venom still bites off someone’s head. At the end end of Joker, the city’s poor regards him as a hero, as a savior. The final scene practically has us laughing at him after he’s just murdered his Arkham psychiatrist.
I don’t like the way that I feel about this movie. It’s well done, but it canonizes a psychopathic killer through his killings. It also paints mental illness with a broad brush. Thankfully, there’s a PSA before the film about learning the facts about mental illness. There was in my theater at least. I worry that too many people with too little education will see this and avoid getting help if they really need it. If this film does really well during awards season, it could continue to set back the advances made in mental illness awareness.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that it’s just a story told by an insane man. If we take it at that, it’s a perfectly serviceable film.
Final Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)