‘Joker’ captivates audiences with refreshing perspective

Joaquin Phoenix portrays the iconic villain in a chilling, refreshing way.

Warner Bros

Joaquin Phoenix portrays the iconic villain in a chilling, refreshing way.

Evelyn Robertson, Editor

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“Joker”, directed by Todd Phillips, smashed previous box office records, setting a new international high for October. Raking in $96 million domestically and $151 million internationally, it is clear that fans were eager to see Jaoquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the iconic villain. 

“Joker” presents a refreshing take on the villain’s perspective and his slow spiral into one of Batman’s most notorious enemies. The dark, self-pitying tone of the movie is enough to have you leaving the theater feeling uneasy and almost sympathetic for the characters in the film.

Phoenix stars in the movie as Arthur Fleck, a man who struggles immensely with the burdens of his mental illness. Fleck struggles to fit into this hateful society filled with crime and greed, where he is bullied by adults and even children around him. Phillips strayed away from the overly-recycled plot used in most adapted films originating from comic books. Phillips’ focal point in this film was Fleck’s internal and external battle with himself and his surroundings as his mental illness prevented him from fitting in. Viewers understood the transition of Fleck’s character, from being denied of his medication and therapy to receiving a loaded gun in order to protect himself. It was all necessary insight to the viewer as to why and how Arthur Fleck became ‘The Joker.’ Although the movie never discloses Fleck’s diagnosed illness, it is understood that Fleck suffers from trauma due to the abuse and neglect inflicted on him over the years.

This portrayal of a mental illness through a character that most people grew up seeing as the “bad guy” is important for future films. Viewers experienced something from a movie based on a comic book villain unlike anything seen before. The techniques used by Phillips when directing this movie made it difficult not to feel somewhat protective over Fleck while he struggled with his surroundings. These feelings pity slowly peeled away as Fleck’s descent into madness began.

 Feelings towards Phoenix’s character were drastically different in the beginning of the film compared to the end. After years of interpretations of ‘The Joker,’ his character arc was finally explained through the effects of his mental illness in a society that rejected him completely. 

The movie did not portray The Joker as a character with the sole purpose of disrupting Batman and wreaking havoc, rather as a troubled human who eventually endured enough abuse and neglect to be pushed to his breaking point. The dark tone of the movie resonates deeply due to the fact that there is no superhero to step in and save the day. We are introduced to the Wayne family, including a young Bruce Wayne, better known as Batman, still in his childhood. This twist on the storyline makes it clear that there is no “good guy” in this film to stop the madness. 

Fleck’s mental illness manifested and the tone became darker as viewers witness his descent into madness. Paired with a chilling score, composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, and eerie improvised scenes by Phoenix, “Joker” was unsettling and unforgettable. 

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