Joaquin Phoenix's Joker is demented, ghoulishly gripping, and if he kills, it's probably for a good laugh
Perhaps its the alienation, the ill-treatment and the lack of recognition that make him more deadly and dangerous
The Joker isn't a villain who wants world domination. He's not about executing imminent personalities live on TV, he isn't about announcing himself to the world that a threat is incoming. There are no grand entrances for the clown prince of Gotham. There's just anarchy, oh and there's chaos while he's introducing some anarchy out in the world. Heck, this is just a guy just who doesn't care about necessarily having an agenda. If he kills, its probably for a good laugh.
Six popular actors have played the iconic villain and the most-recent entrant to that list is Joaquin Phoenix. Ever since the footage of 'Joker' hit the world, there have been ample comparisons with Heath Ledger's portrayal of the man with the eerie laughter. Back in 2008, when Ledger first decked up like the Joker, it was the start of a journey of the "funny man" who still lingers in culture.
Eleven years later, we have a new Joker. The movie is an origin story of DC's greatest villains. This was a villain who probably needed some makeup and nothing more. There's no CGI needed, just some white and red paint, fern-green colored hair, a bit of a swagger, and some dark plans to watch the world burn.
Speaking of the world burning, there's a quote by Michael Caine's Alfred from 'The Dark Knight' that sums up the Joker's trait perfectly. "Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn." And, that is precisely what Ledger's Joker did. Phoenix's version, however, is a stark contrast from Ledger. This Joker tale is set in the '80s and this time, there is a sense of insidiousness that emanates from the villain. Perhaps its the alienation, the ill-treatment and the lack of recognition.
The film hasn't hit the silver screens just yet, but its premiere at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival saw it walk away with a standing ovation and rich accolades. Praises were heaped on Phoenix in generous spoonfuls for dishing out an impeccable performance. Empire called the film 'Bold, devastating and utterly beautiful', while The Guardian termed it 'gloriously daring and explosive'.
Now then, back to Phoenix. From the trailers, we see that there is some sort of messianic rebirth in his essaying of the character. He seems demented, goes on like a bit of a space cadet and is ghoulishly gripping. And it looks like he has no missions, he just wants to sit back and be noticed for who he is. It follows Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City. Todd Philips, the director explained what he intended to do with Phoenix's Joker.
"I don’t think it was this Joker’s goal to watch the world burn. This Joker had an entirely different goal in mind. At the beginning of the movie, he’s sitting here doing this (forcing himself to smile and frown) in the very first scene, and it’s a guy searching for identity," Phillips said.
"I think he becomes, mistakenly, a symbol, and really what he was looking for was adulation. He was never looking for the world to burn, this Joker. As for the past ones, that’s a different thing. But our guy, that wasn’t his goal."
"He thought he was put here on this Earth to make people laugh and bring joy to the world, and he made a few bad decisions along the way, but no, his goal was not that. I think he became a mistaken leader, so to speak, or a symbol. Even (Robert) De Niro, (who plays) Murray (Franklin), says it to him. And Arthur says, ‘No, I’m not political.’ He just didn’t get what he was creating."
Clearly, the confusion is a weapon here. This is a man who's wrongly understood. He wanted to be appreciated, but instead, he ends up creating monsters. For all we know, the Joker here has begun a movement that is fast spiraling into an out-of-control Gotham. Ledger just wanted to rip the Bat apart, but here, Phoenix has a loyal following. Knowingly or unknowingly, he's managed to be a leader and that was something Ledger didn't really do. He just wanted the world to know that Batman has his minuses.
Simply put, this is about a man who's lost it in pursuit of establishing an identity.
'Joker' premieres on October 8, 2019.