The Joker is a fitting origin story to one of pop culture’s most iconic villains.
The Joker begins as a slow-burning drama with Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck doing his best to exist in a broken Gotham City, before a series of violent events lead to the birth of the Joker. Living in a rundown apartment with his sick mother, Arthur works as a clown-for-hire and aspires to be a standup comedian, but it’s a rather miserable existence, with his life being a series of humiliations, unwarranted attacks, and all manner of rejections. With the world constantly expecting him to act ‘normal’ and refusing to see his side of things, the thin mask of sanity that he wears slowly slips away before a horrific family secret throws his life into further chaos. It all culminates in an intense and powerful climax, completing his descent into madness.
Over the decades, we have seen some truly remarkable portrayals of the joker by stellar actors like Jack Nicholson (Batman 1989) and Mark Hamill (Batman – The Animated Series) before Heath Ledger set a new benchmark in Nolan’s Dark Knight, which at the time seemed unsurpassable. After the forgettable performance of Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, Phoenix brings the Joker to life again in a terrifying, haunting and unsettling performance that rivals Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance.
With Todd Phillips’ Joker and Amazon Prime’s recent The Boys, there is enough evidence to suggest that there will always be new ways to tell a superhero story. It’s sad that DC decided to copy/paste their iconic characters in Marvel movies while creating their cinematic universe. Had DC followed the Nolan’s Dark Knight template and built their universe with movies like Joker, the DCEU could have given the MCU a run for its money.
As a non-superhero movie, the Joker holds so much relevance in the contemporary world and offers a deeply unsettling social commentary on mental illness. As an origin story to one of the most iconic villains, it’s the perfect backstory for the psychotic clown who would eventually become the Joker and traumatize Batman’s Gotham City.