122 min, K-16, premiere in Finland Oct 4, 2019
Basically I had assumed that nobody could seriously challenge Heath Ledger channeling the Joker (see my Suicide Squad review HERE).
I was wrong.
Joaquin Phoenix in this Joker origin story (outside the DC Extended Universe) is a force of nature, at least equal to Ledger’s interpretation; pretty creepy due to the weight loss (almost as much as Batman-actor Christian Bale in “The Machinist”). His intense character study draws us closer, hypnotizes and makes us all co-conspirators or even allies – at least I think I’ll read Batman/Joker comic books slightly differently in the future.
Hence I can understand a certain controversy (“it inspires violence”) emerging even before the movie is officially released. Yet only in terms of “opening a discussion about the problems in Western societies”. Maybe some people remember that there was a crazy “Joker” already several years ago in the US, shooting into the audience of a movie theater. And surely it’s just the music of Marilyn Manson that inspires massacres at schools, and never the social deficits in the shooter’s environment or the almost non-existing gun laws …
Back to the movie – Gotham has never been so real – see “social problems”, filthy rich old farts ridiculing the poor as “clowns”… the powerful being afraid of a newly emerging youth movement (see Greta). Director Todd Phillips and his script co-writer Scott Silver, cinematographer Lawrence Sher, Mark Friedberg (production design) and Mark Bridges (costumes) created something that seems much more like a documentary than a fiction film (also thanks to the editing by Jeff Groth). Although the story is set around 1980 it feels like you are about to stumble into the Joker when leaving the movie theater… And yes, there are also a couple of iconic scenes known from the comic books.
Do not expect a CGI-heavy DC Comics blockbuster – this here is much more like Taxi Driver (you even get Robert de Niro playing the TV host Murray Franklin) and Nolan’s Batman trilogy seems pretty cheerful with some positive heroes/heroines in comparison…
The award received even before official release is well-deserved (Golden Lion, Venice film festival) and I bet on some Oscar honors for the Joker, too, especially for the person playing him. Maybe I also need to mention the score by Hildur Guðnadóttir which creates this intense atmosphere – you feel totally excited although the outcome of this origin story is already certain…
Brilliant, breath-taking although slightly disturbing, a Must!