Volume Eight, Issue Fourteen!
“Put On A Happy Face”
Well, we finally have our first look at Joker, the Todd Phillips directed, Joaquin Phoenix starring DC film that serves as an origin story of sorts for the infamous villain. Movie and comic fans didn’t really know what to expect from this movie, and even now that we have a teaser, I still don’t really know what to think when it comes to this film. But I have to admit, I’m more intrigued now than I was when it was first announced.
When the rumblings of a solo Joker movie started up a year ago, I, like many others, was against it. Warner Bros and DC were still very much in the midst of the fallout of Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, so it seemed like a “dark and gritty” Joker movie in the same style as Taxi Driver was less of an inspired choice, and more like one of the studio’s many “try hard” takes at being edgy and the “anti-Marvel”. Of course, having a filmmaker like Todd Phillips, the guy behind The Hangover, Road Trip and other bro-ish comedies (that I enjoy, btw) certainly didn’t help. But once Joaquin Phoenix went from being courted to signing on the dotted line to star, the tide started to turn. Hell, Robert De Niro even signed on to costar, and Martin Scorsese himself is producing. Perhaps maybe there’s something to this Joker film after all?
There’s weird aspects to this film for sure, though. With no mention of Batman, and being set in the 80’s, there’s probably no way this film will connect with any of DC’s current crop of films. But is that really a bad thing? Like Batman, one of the greatest aspects of the Joker is that he can be put through any nearly any genre and still be essentially the same character. Whether a goofy criminal, nihilistic anarchist, or (sigh) tattooed gangster, each incarnation of the Joker on the page or screen adds to the lore of the character, and add something to him (yes, even Jared Leto). DC has a long history of putting interesting spins on their stable of characters with their Elseworlds series of comics, and once you view Joker through that lens, it makes a lot more sense.
Of course, the comic nerd/Joker fan that I am is always against the idea of learning anything about the Joker. Learning what makes him tick not only ruins his appeal, but makes him sympathetic, something that is extremely dangerous in my opinion. And of course, having a story about a white dude who’s constantly put down and fed up with his life and goes on a murderous spree will definitely have the potential to be taken the wrong way by a subset of people (who am I kidding, it probably already has). But there’s a chance that maybe, just maybe, this could be comic book film on the level of The Dark Knight or Logan, where it elevates the genre and shows off the storytelling potential of these characters and the comic book medium.
…..or it could be a giant mess. Either way, I’m going to check it out, if only for Phoenix’s performance.