Someday a rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets….Oh, wrong film.
Sorry, that was a cheap shot. Bad joke. Lets try again.
As I write this, Joaquin Phoenix has last night won the Oscar for Best Actor, after last week winning the BAFTA for best leading actor, for his role as Arthur Fleck/Joker in Joker. That’s really some achievement for a comic book movie and a sign that either the film industry is taking such yarns seriously now, or that those yarns have taken over Hollywood regardless. Well, with 22 Marvel movies now (or 23? I’ve lost count, but I suppose it really depends on when you are reading this- it could be 30 or 40 someday), I suppose it was inevitable.
You know what really bugs me about Joker? Its that on the whole, its quite brilliant. Sure, it owes a lot – an awful lot- to other, better movies, and sure, one film in particular but that’s not really a problem (other than THAT films director really not thinking much positive of comic book movies), I mean, lots and LOTS of films owe a lot to other, older, better movies. The important thing is, Joker is intended to be a thing, a certain film, and it is that thing, it manages it. It is what it is. Its really quite brilliant; it has this philosophy, this heart of darkness thing that, love it or loathe it, separates it from everything else Warner/DC has done (except perhaps parts of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films., and on the whole, Joker does it better).
So last night I watched Joker on 4K UHD and it looked absolutely gorgeous. I doubt it looked quite that good at the cinema. Beautiful, gritty detail, lovely use of HDR that just exudes such a sense of depth to the image. Just fantastic image quality, with a great soundtrack, and to top it all, it turned out to be a pretty great movie. Not perfect by any means, but it really pretty much measured up to all that hype this thing has had since its cinema release last year. I really enjoyed it.
But what bugs me, is that they are going to ruin it. This thing turned out to be not only a pretty great movie, it turned out to be one that made lots of money -over $1 Billion in fact- and no studio can leave that alone. You’d have to be someone like Spielberg to have sufficient clout to block a E.T. Returns or a James Cameron to block bringing the Titanic back to the surface with a frozen Jack ready to thaw out.
I don’t know. That’s about the dumbest thing I ever heard. Damn, sorry, couldn’t help it.
I hope we don’t get another one. Maybe one is really enough. Its a dark and empty film, a film for our times, where all the complex issues of our society can get narrowed down and simplified into soundbites and truth turned into fake news, and anything can be ‘right’ if the right person says it often enough. Joker is a monster, and I think that perhaps the film dangerously reaches a point where it forgets that, exults in sudden violence and murder in just the same way as Taxi Driver does, but that film had a point, a message, and proved a document of its time. If Joker proves a document of our time, well that’s pretty depressing, and that thought is enough to set me digging a deep hole I can hide myself in.
But yeah, I enjoyed it, it was pretty fine. Not many films can carry so many nods to a classic like Taxi Driver and get away with it.
Sadly though, we’d have to be as crazy as Arthur Fleck to think that there’s not going to be a Joker2. They might call it Joker: Still Laughing, but that is probably the limit of the imagination involved when its really going to be about the money. Whats to stop Warner smelling the money and making Joker into some kind of anti-hero? Sure, okay, a sequel might come out and it might be just as brilliant as the original, hell, it might be able to go somewhere new, but really, the odds are against it.
Shaking off the weary, darker Batman of Batman v Superman and Justice League, Warner is currently off making a brand-new rebooted Batman with Robert Pattinson playing a new, younger Batman with the Catwoman and a parade of villains like The Riddler and The Penguin and will somehow try to stop itself looking as silly as the Adam West show. I hear they are shooting it in Glasgow or something. Gotham’s really going downhill.
Todd Phillips’ Joker is from some other alternate universe, it doesn’t fit in with that kind of Batman saga… mind, what kind of Batman with his cape and pointy ears could measure up to Joaquin Phoenix without being laughed (sorry) off screen?
One thing that Phillips got tellingly right in Joker is that they really are brothers. Two sides of one coin. Sure, the film wisely backtracked from breaking with established mythology regards parentage etc but fundamentally, it was right. Arthur Fleck and Bruce Wayne are two brothers on the same Stygian boat into Darkness. Imagine if Joker had been three hours long, and had gone on to examine Bruce Wayne after his parents deaths in the same way as it had Arthur’s fall into madness. They could have called it Joker and Batman. What a film that might have been, a deconstruction of that most famous comics mythology. Ends with Bruce Wayne becoming Batman and Joker getting out of Arkham Asylum. Fade Out. The End.