One Liner Review:
A dark origin tale for the notorious Batman villain, this movie starts out okay, but gets better and better as it goes on and big things start happening for the character.
Now this is a powerhouse of a movie. It’s dark, depressing, and still filled with wild criminal energy. How they pulled this off is pretty remarkable. Especially when it also deal with one of the most iconic characters of all time, and when Heath Ledger has already won an Oscar for playing the role seriously. But they did it. And they did it by truly giving us an origin story of a character who never wanted anything more then happiness, as he watches the world around him crumble. You really feel for this character and understand him, and perhaps that’s the biggest accomplishment of all.
What they, (and by they I mean Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix, the writer / director and the star,) did here is thry made a sympathetic antihero of sorts, out of the Joker. Now this is no “secretly a good guy,” vigilante movie. It’s not Venom, where the worst thing the protagonist does is steal some secrets from a a really bad guy. The Joker is a killer. And he doesn’t kill only murderers. The Joker kills people with the grey side to them. That means people who have done something to cross him, whether they spread a rumor about him, made something up about him, physically gets him up, or just made fun of him.
Bit before he does any of that, he is just Arthur, a simple dim-witted guy who just wants to be happy. He enjoys his job, as a clown. It requires him to stand around on busy streets twirling signs, or visit children’s hospitals trying to make sick kids smile and laugh. Arthur’s lifelong dream is to be a stand up comic. Only nobody thinks he’s funny. The other clowns and performers he works with think he’s weird, (as we learn from Arthur’s boss.) Even his mother, who Arthur lives with and takes are of, tells him he’s not funny. But Arthur doesn’t give up. He just uses this to fuel his anger.
And boy does he have a lot of that. A large portion of this movie is spent showing us just how hard Arthur’s life is and how bad things are for him. The movie opens with that twirling a sign on the sidewalk scene. And Arthur gets the sign stolen from him by a pack of kids, runs after them, chases them into an alley, and gets beaten up. Then when he gets back to work, his boss wants to know why he left the job on the sidewalk. Arthur tells him he got jumped and was in the hospital, and the boss doesn’t believe him. All he cares about is getting the sign back, insisting that Arthur stoke it and that the cost will be taken out of his paycheck.
One of the other clowns talks to Arthur about getting jumped. He ends up giving Arthur a gun. And then when Arthur gets attacked a second time on a train, he makes sure to use that gun, killing his three attackers. But let’s back track for a moment to talk about why he got attacked on the train. Arthur has a laughing condition. He starts laughing out loud sometimes for no reason at all. And it is a really fantastic laugh. When it happens on a bus, Arthur ends up handing a woman a laminated card that explains this. It tells her the condition causes his facial expressions and sound to not match the way her really feels. And so when he starts laughing on the subway car, as these three stock brokers harass a woman, the guys turn their attention on him. That’s when they beat him up and then get shit and killed.
And this is where Arthur becomes the Joker. Not fully formed or anything, but it’s when he first transforms into a killer. He leaves the subway scene and ducks into a men’s room where he does a very strange transformative dance. And now Arthur has more confidence. He bursts into the apartment of a neighbor he had flirting with and starts making out with her. He does stand up comedy at an open mic for the first time. And he decides to dig deeper into his mother’s obsession with Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, the man who will One day become Batman.
The connections to Bruce Wayne are a welcome addition into this movie. In the world we are living in, these days, filled with Easter eggs and shared universes,