Joker: A Movie Goer’s Love and a Critic’s Nightmare

From the beginning with Cesar Romero to Heath Ledger, many actors have played the iconic role of the Joker. Now, Joaquin Phoenix, three time Oscar nominee, has taken the role of the infamous Clown Prince of Crime in the film Joker. However, unlike previous movies including the Joker, the director Todd Phillips has crafted a film concerning the origin story of Gotham’s super-villain, offering a unique perspective never seen before on screen. Joaquin Phoenix delivers an amazing performance once more and takes the audience on a tumultuous journey. 

The movie begins with the main character, Arthur Fleck, a party clown and an aspiring stand up comedian, advertising on the streets of Gotham with a large yellow sign. A group of teenagers steal his sign and run into an alley, ambushing Arthur and beating him up until he’s black and blue. 

The next day, Arthur’s coworker, Randall, gives him a gun for protection after hearing about the mugging incident. He later goes to a children’s hospital to entertain them as a clown and while he’s dancing, his gun falls out on the floor. His boss chews him out for the incident, and this leads to Arthur being fired.

On the subway home, Arthur, still in his clown makeup, is beaten up by three drunken Wayne Enterprise businessmen. Though, with a loud bang, he shoots two in self-defense and executes the third. The murders are condemned by Thomas Wayne, the head of Wayne Enterprise and billionaire mayoral candidate. Demonstrations against the rich begin with protesters donning clown masks in Arthur’s image. 

His week progressively worsens as his social worker tells him the government has cut funding and shut down the facility, leaving Arthur with nowhere to get his medication. Arthur’s comedy show goes poorly and famous Gothamite talk show host, Murray Franklin, mocks Arthur by showing clips from the routine on his show. After intercepting a letter written by his mother to Thomas Wayne, he finds out that he is Thomas’ illegitimate son. He confronts Thomas at a public event, who tells him that Penny, Arthur’s mother, is delusional and not even Arthur’s biological mother. 

In denial, Arthur visits Arkham State Hospital, stealing Penny’s case file where he learns that Penny adopted Arthur as a baby and allowed her abusive boyfriend to harm them both. Distraught, Arthur goes to the hospital to see Penny, who had suffered a stroke, and smothers her. 

Arthur is then invited to appear on Murray’s show due to an unexpected popularity of his routine clips. And as he prepares, he is visited by Randall and fellow ex-coworker, Gary. Arthur, blinded by anger, murders Randall ruthlessly, but lets Gary go unharmed for treating him well in the past. 

Before the show goes live, Arthur requests Murray to introduce him as Joker, a reference to Murray’s previous mockery. He walks out to a warm reception, but then admits that he was the one who killed the men on the train and rants about how society abandoned the disenfranchised. After calling out Murray for mocking him, Arthur shoots him in the head on live television. He is then arrested as riots break out across Gotham, but when rioters crash an ambulance into the police car, the rioters free him. 

Arthur stands above the crowd as they cheer for him and for the first time in his life, he feels recognized and seen by other people. 

Joker has had a split reception between critics and movie goers, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 68% rating while Google Users gave it a 93% rating. Some audience members have even predicted it be nominated for Best Picture at the 92nd Academy Awards because of Phoenix’s performance of the character and Todd Phillips’ direction of the film. On the other hand, however, some critics have found the movie to be predictable, dull, and overly violent. 

Joker has even sparked mass shooting threats, awakening fears of a repeat of September 20, 2012, where a mass shooting left 12 people dead and 70 injured during the screening of The Dark Knight in Aurora, Colorado. The movie theater in Aurora, where the 2012 shooting occurred, has decided not to show the Joker. In a statement to ABC News, “Warner Brothers have said the film is fictional and not a glorification of ‘real-world’ violence.” 

Despite what critics and the media have said, the Joker is a movie worth going to. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance makes the audience watch with bated breath Arthur’s every move as he is shunned by society and broken down again and again. The cinematography transports movie goers back in time to the early 1980s and the music plays ominously in the background, quiet but ever present. Even though Joker has been wrapped in controversy since it first premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in Italy, it is set to become the highest grossing R-rated U.S. release of all-time, heading toward a potential of $900 million in global ticket sales.