Film, Venue

Joker: An incredible, visceral performance

‘Joker’ marks a new age for DC and Warner Bros. Once seen as marvel’s lacklustre competition, DC now welcomes projects completely separate to their cinematic universe. Telling the origin of perhaps one of the most famous villains in history, ‘Joker’ presents the story of Arthur Fleck and his downfall, leading to him becoming Batman’s ultimate nemesis. 

To start, one must discuss Joaquin Phoenix’s captivating performance. From the first shot of him, you are captivated and on the edge of your seat as he evokes equal parts empathy and fear. His take on the iconic laugh eerily resonates with you long after the credits have rolled. Furthermore, the physical transformation Phoenix went through for the film, losing three and a half stone, creates moments of extreme discomfort and unease as shots linger on his form, ultimately adding to the shocking and distressing tone of the film without even a word of dialogue. 

Furthermore, despite the films apparent 70’s aesthetic it felt somewhat timeless. The stunning visuals within the film felt slick and vintage. The costume design mirrors that of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, going from dull greys to crisp oranges and greens that furthers the fixation on Phoenix’s performance.

Moving forward, the film is overtly political, criticising the treatment of the working class and the most vulnerable by those with power in society. Within the film, it’s Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, that faces the brunt of the criticism. Ironically, ‘Joker’ flips the idea of good guy and bad guy on its head and makes the viewer question the morality of Batman’s upbringing. Did he live a life of luxury only to grow up and punish those that are suffering? It is moral questions like this that are at the centre of the film. The film invites its viewer to question everything we see on screen from the treatment of the vulnerable in society to the actions of Fleck himself. 

The film presents Fleck as a victim and in every sense, he is. Society has allowed him to fall through the cracks and ultimately this becomes the reason he turned to his murderous life of crime. An issue I have with this presentation, is the lack of condemnation that Arthur receives from the citizens of Gotham. Many of the characters within the film do not resent his actions, but in fact hail him as somewhat of a political hero.

In an age where political tension is high and there is an extreme issue with mass violence, especially in America, I think it should be of key importance to present this idea as morally wrong as opposed to being open to interpretation. 

Overall, whilst I disagree with the presentation of his actions within the film, I cannot ignore the incredible, visceral performance given by Phoenix and the slick visuals orchestrated by director Todd Philips. 

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Niamh Brook

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May 2022
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