I know that everyone is endlessly reporting Impeachment news and we weighed in on it too here at GCN. We have an “impeachment is reasonable” moderate blue take, and an “impeachment is unreasonable” conservative red take. But I’m already sick of reading Ukrainian connected impeachment news and that story has only been around for a few weeks. So, instead - let’s talk about comic book movies!
Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips. Screenplay by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver. Starring Joaquin Phoenix.
According to some, mainly liberals, Joker is an incel friendly, dangerous film that humanizes the most infamous psychotic lunatic mass murderer in all comic book history. In fact, it’s so dangerous that, again - according to liberals - it will incite incels to armed violence everywhere! (Editor’s note. Incels are men who are “involuntarily celibate,” as in “women won't have sex with them but it’s not their fault that women don’t want to have sex with them - it’s society’s fault. And women’s fault, too. But not theirs at all.”) All over the country, for the realese of Joker, security was beefed up in preparation for the inevitable armed incel rise up!
An excerpt from Stephanize Zacharek’s Joker review from Time:
“In America, there’s a mass shooting or attempted act of violence by a guy like Arthur practically every other week … And yet we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for Arthur, the troubled lamb; he just hasn’t had enough love … the movie lionizes and glamorizes Arthur even as it shakes its head, faux-sorrowfully, over his violent behavior.”
Fair enough. I do agree that the character of Joker should not be presented as a heroic figure because … well, he’s not. He’s a lunatic mass murderer. The comics really attempt to clinically explain Joker’s behavior and, to be honest, they shouldn’t. He’s a comic book villain. And that’s one of the reasons I generally feel that some things do not cross over well from comic books to live action film. Being lonely, unloved and mentally ill does not realistically create an unkillable, ever escaping from prison comic book super villain. But in live action film, depending on the tone of your story being a ridiculously over the top super villain does not exactly make a realistic looking lonely, unloved, mentally ill human being.
I mean, if you added up the comic book deaths caused by Joker it wouldn’t make sense that he would ever escape any kind of prison. After murdering hundreds of people, well, the fourth, or fifth, or sixth time he was captured, Joker would be over medicated into comatose form and locked away in a deep, dark hole - and no one would ever hear from him again!
But, that’s not exactly drama. And comic books don’t need to live in the real world and they shouldn’t have to. The medium that comic books exist in allow Joker to escape over and over so Batman can heroically triumph or occasionally, tragically fail against the antagonist. That’s drama.
And so now we have the new film, Joker. Which attempts to give reason to the “why” of the Joker's mass murdering madness. While I find the film compelling and Joaquin Phoenix is quite good in the lead role I keep going back to the “But, Joker isn’t a realistic super villain - he doesn’t need a realistic … ohh, never mind!”
The tone of Joker is dead serious. Sure, the film perhaps pays a bit too much homage to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy (especially with that DeNiro casting) but, so what? General audiences would probably be shocked to realize how often film directors steal from each other. Paying homage to other film sources is not exactly the cinematic crime that cinephiles are pretending it is. It’s a film that drips with believable pathos and realistic character motivation but I’m not exactly sure I bought the societal folk hero angle as Gothamites embraced the crimes of Joker. I mean, IF something like that happened in a city it could very well be a realistic motivation for a Batman figure to rise up to fight that level of city wide injustice. But, as told in Joker, city folk rise up in riot for Joker I just didn’t find it very plausible. On the other hand, the Joker is a very unreliable narrator and much of the movie, especially the last fifteen minutes or so are wide open to multiple interpretations. My personal interpretation is clearly more accurate than most others, obviously. =)
BUT - I don’t really want to go into further detail about it because, spoilers. I guess I’ll just say that Joker is worth seeing; and lots of folks feel that way too as it broke box office records around the world. It received an eight minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival where it won the top award even though critical opinion is mixed landing currently at 68% on Rottentomatoes.com. Joker is neither as dangerous or as dull as critics are portraying it. And, I guess I didn’t find it to be the masterpiece a few are claiming.
As for the armed, violent incel revolt? Meh. Probably won’t happen. Don’t get me wrong. Some self absorbed lunatic somewhere might pick up a gun and go on a murder spree but, as we all know, they would have done it without Joker ever getting involved.
And now, I will leave you with the greatest Batman / Joker knock-knock joke, maybe - ever.
Joker: Knock knock.
Batman: Who’s there.
Joker: Not your parents.