In just the last week, “Joker” officially premiered in Italy last week to a thunderous 8 minute standing ovation and near universal critical praise, while us mortals were given the final official trailer. Hell, IGN.com gave the film an absurd 10/10. I have never seen them give out a perfect score to a film before, and they aren’t alone. Check the interwebs, the reviews are astronomical. I don’t think I am out of line when I say this film will be a force of nature when we are allowed to see it. Just watch the final trailer and tell me you aren’t ready to go to war for this film!
The character the Joker is inarguably my personal favorite comic book character ever created. Although comic books are a medium fertile for developing deep, complex characters with a multitude of motivations, it is the Joker has always stood out amongst the crowd as the most intricate and mystifying. The idea that DC is throwing out there own rules to create a story focused solely on their most enthralling and intriguing property is perhaps the smartest decision they have ever made.
The Joker is also one of the few comic book characters with multiple movie iterations actually being praiseworthy. Nerds are notoriously difficult human beings to please, and getting them to agree on something being good is no small feat. And yet, Jack Nicholson’s Joker from “Batman” (1989) and Heath Ledger’s Joker from “The Dark Knight” (2008) are both loved. And we can’t forget Mark Hammil’s voice work as the joker in “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-1995), who some still believe might even be the best version (although my vote is still for Ledger). The Joker is an idea that can be explored differently and each experience simply adds to the giant melting pot of the understanding and mystery of who he is as an entity.
While Marvel has thrived this past decade, DC has faltered ever since the conclusion of their Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” Trilogy, which also conviently peaked with the Joker in “The Dark Knight”. Marvel has been capitalizing on the diversity of their characters and the sheer grandeur of the productions they put on, DC still holds one advantage over them: their characters are generally more interesting than Marvel’s. Obviously that is a subjective qualification and not a totally uniform quality even in my exaggerated description, but there is at least a granule of truth to it when you look at the depth of heroes and villains that DC Comics sports. DC has realized that their path forward competing against Marvel is not to try to square up against their cinematic universe, but to utilize the bevvy of interesting and complex characters to create a more intimate storytelling experience. Be different because they are different.
Visually, Joaquin Phoenix looks terrifying in the best way imaginable. The character has always had a creepy clown vibe that resembles the look of nightmares, based loosely on clowns and Victor Hugo’s misunderstood “The Man Who Laughs”. Some versions are chemically scared, while some use face-paint to represent a more realistic portrayal, which is the approach that Phoenix and Heath Ledger before him took when constructing their versions. The direction he seems to have taken draws resemblance to classic films like “Taxi Driver”, and “The King of Comedy” as well as the Alan Moore comic book “Batman: The Killing Joke” and there is even a chance he inspired his look after real life serial killer clown John Wayne Gacy. When you consider the fact that it is believed that Phoenix lost nearly 50 pounds for the role and had all of these great influences, it is setting up my expectations for a performance that can rival some of the best we may have ever seen in film.
But now we have a Joker movie that is being suggested that it will redefine the entire genre of comic book movies, with a supposed Oscar-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix. This character was already the best, but somehow they found a way to improve it? Oh, Hell yeah I’m excited! Imagine a world as shitty as the one we live in but we somehow manage to get “Avengers: Endgame” AND “Joker” in the same year! And yes, I am fully aware that “Joker” has not premiered to audiences yet and it could be another situation like “The Last Jedi” where critics praised it but the fans thought it was dumpster juice (But why would you ever think that way?). But I am not even being cautiously optimistic anymore. Screw caution, I am all in! Vegeta, tell them what my excitement level is!