A New Form of Comic Book Cinema: The Joker


*Warning: Contains Spoilers*

In one of the most anticipated movies of the year, director Todd Phillips takes a different approach to creating a film about a comic book character. Instead of the mysterious and cunning clown prince of crime that comic book fans know and love, Phillips introduces the audience to a party clown and stand up comedian Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, as he slowly undergoes his descent into madness and becomes the Joker.

This movie demonstrates what previous depictions of the Joker have set out to prove: all it takes is one bad day for things to go downhill, and this movie does an excellent job in placing the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions. Joker wastes no time, and the very first scene depicts Arthur being hit over the head with a wooden advertising board by hooligans. This is the first time the audience feels pity for Arthur, but definitely not the last. Another feeling viewers experience is discomfort. Arthur has a rare medical condition that causes him to have uncontrollable shrieks of laughter which can occur at any given moment.

However, the best part about Joker is the uncertainty and unanswered questions that viewers leave the theater with. Throughout the movie, Arthur develops a romantic relationship with Sophie Dumond (played by Zazie Beetz), a single mother who lives in Arthur’s building. However, in the latter stages of the film, Arthur enters into Sophie’s home unannounced and Sophie, frightened, tells him to leave. The jaw-dropping moment of this scene is when Sophie asks, “You’re Arthur, right?,” revealing to the audience that their previous encounters had been figments of Arthur’s imagination. This causes the audience to question whether there are more parts of the story that didn’t happen, or if any of it happened at all, as it is the only moment in the Joker in which this distinction is apparent.

Although it only amounted to a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, Joker became the highest grossing R rated film, overtaking Deadpool 2, and became the first ever R rated movie to surpass the 1 billion dollar mark, raking in approximately almost $1.017 billion. However, it should be noted that this film is not for everyone. Unlike conventional comic book movies, it possesses a grim tone, and not to mention, there’s no Batman! However, if you don’t think of it as a comic book movie and excuse the lack of comic book accuracy, then it might just change the way you think about cinema altogether.