FILM REVIEW: Joker

Great performance: Regardless of one's opinion of the film itself, it's impossible to deny Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Arthur Fleck is truly incredible in the new film Joker, rated MA15+, in cinemas now.
Great performance: Regardless of one's opinion of the film itself, it's impossible to deny Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Arthur Fleck is truly incredible in the new film Joker, rated MA15+, in cinemas now.

What words can we usually use to describe superhero movies?

Fun? Action-packed? Humorous? Family-friendly?

Well, none of those words could be used to describe Joker.

The new film from director Todd Phillips (better known as director of the Hangover movies) may take place on the streets of Gotham, inside a universe that will birth Batman, but it is far from a superhero - or really even a supervillain - movie.

Joker is dark, depressing, discomforting, deranged and more.

Joaquin Phoenix steps into the well-worn shoes of Batman's greatest villain.

He follows in the wake of some very memorable Joker performances, from Jack Nicholson (Batman) to the Oscar-winning turn of Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight).

Phoenix truly stands on his own though, bringing a completely new dynamic to the iconic character; less anarchy, more simmering rage with a side of neglect, class warfare and injustice.

The film has courted controversy for its anger-driven violence and lack of condemnation of the title character's horrible acts, but at the same time it has been receiving great ratings and strong box office performances.

The violence is almost by-the-by though, as a great many films are rooted in violence without a touch of controversy.

The problem is that Joker's violence springs from a feeling of being overlooked, of being ignored and downtrodden by the elite of society - Batman's father Thomas Wayne among the chief offenders - with no counterview. There's no one to say that violence is not the answer. In fact, the frustrated masses applaud the Joker's antics and hail him a hero, placing him on a pedestal.

Joker seems to be sending the message that if you don't look after the less fortunate - the poor, the mentally-ill, the disabled - society will descend into anarchy. Almost that it's inevitable that these people will resort to violent means. That's not something that sits comfortably with all viewers, and for good reason.

Joker is sure to continue to be hugely divisive and a source of debate among movie fans. It's hard to recommend something so oppressively dark, but Phoenix's performance should be seen.

Rating: 6/10