Joaquin Phoenix is No Joke in ‘Joker’

Karla Pacheco   Staff Writer

The Joker. What a villain. What a concept. What a film. From the trailer release, the newest iteration of the Joker claimed a spot at the top of the trending charts. Finally, an origin story for one of the most popular villains with a most mysterious past – imagine that! “The Dark Knight” trilogy even toyed around with the fact that there was no true backstory for the Joker. As usual, with as few spoilers as possible, this storyline does so much in terms of enriching the cinematic lore of the Joker.

As far as origin stories go, “Joker” includes quite an in-depth explanation as to how the aspiring comedian becomes a ruthless villain. The audience gets to see the chain of events that drives Arthur Fleck down the dark descent towards being the Joker. Additionally, the explanations for his quality of life and state of being served as genuinely shocking plot twists.

The second there seems to be a clear reason for Fleck’s actions, a new scene starts to destroy every possible theory. To be fair, these such moments are a bit confusing to follow in real time, but they make for interesting conversations post-viewing.

Content aside, the cinematography is gorgeous. The style is reminiscent of the unforgiving nature of Tarantino’s visual cues and the purposeful color schemes of Wes Anderson films. Also, worth noting are the similarities to the look of “Gotham” on FOX and “The Dark Knight.” As Arthur Fleck becomes the Joker, the film becomes more colorful and saturated, a contrast which is particularly jarring against Gotham’s typical muted tones. The soundtrack also works to complement the narrative. Joker’s antagonists sing Frank Sinatra’s “Send in The Clowns” making for a scene eerie enough even before realizing this is the moment that becomes Fleck’s final straw. Even the use of Jimmy Durante’s version of “Smile” in the trailer was a phenomenal choice. The juxtaposition of a usually uplifting tune with a chaotic clown of a villain integrated with a dark and moody orchestral score sets the mood of the film from the start.

While there were concerns and controversy with the public sympathizing with the Joker or even worse, embodying the film and taking inspiration from his actions, it is clear that this is not the message of the movie. The sympathy is felt for Arthur Fleck, a misunderstood and tortured man. As he becomes the Joker, the feeling towards him shifts into incredible discomfort. It is impossible to not recognize him as the villain that wages terror upon the city of Gotham. Seeing “Joker” was the most uncomfortable yet engaging two hours ever spent in a theater.

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