Not only is Joker one of best comic book movies of all time, but it’s also one of the best films of 2019. When this film was announced, I was very much against a Joker origin film. Todd Phillips proved that I was completely wrong. Here I discuss some of my favorite moments in Joker (SPOILERS).
Joker is a dark and gritty film that takes your breath away. If you thought Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was grounded, then you haven’t seen anything yet. If you want a non-spoiler review of Joker, then click here. Todd Phillips’ Joker is the anti-comic book movie we never knew we needed.
First thing’s first: this is not a Joker movie. This movie is about Arthur Fleck, his descent into madness and the shaming of mental health in a real world Gotham City. Arthur is very much a product of the flaws of society. Through multiple scenes, Arthur is routinely let down by his boss, peers, his own condition, and even his personal psychiatrist.
This article contains heavy spoilers as I discuss my favorite scenes in the film and the most important questions left unanswered. If you haven’t seen Joker, stop reading now! You have been warned!
Love Thy Imagined Neighbor
In the first act of the film, we see a beaten down Arthur awkwardly attempt a relationship with his neighbor Sophie. Arthur is an outcast. He doesn’t possess the ability to initiate interaction with his female neighbor. In fact, he doesn’t recognize appropriate times to laugh while attending a comedy show. It is clear that Arthur’s uncontrollable condition has kept him away from developing any kind of self-confidence or social relationships.
We see Arthur climbing stairs multiple times throughout the first two acts. This uphill climb represents Arthur’s struggle to fit in with society. It also symbolized Arthur’s fight with own mental health. One of the more memorable scenes involves Arthur in his Joker costume dancing on that same staircase. In this scene, Arthur finally accepts his insanity and his true self. Arthur’s descent into madness was complete, but it also seemingly leads to a romantic relationship with Sophie.
It is later revealed that Arthur had fantasized his relationship with Sophie throughout the entire film. Making Arthur’s neighbor a figment of Arthur’s imagination added another layer to this film and was one of the standout moments in the film. This showed just how much of a fantasist Arthur had truly become.
You Get What You Deserve & Blood Smile
One of the best moments of the film comes from The Murray Franklin Show during the final act. Arthur is telling a joke to Murray and eventually confesses to have murdered the three men in the subway. Murray blames Arthur for being the symbol of the protests and the violence in the streets.
Arthur, complaining about the differences between the rich and the poor, finally confronts Murray about his own purpose: to make fun of Arthur. Arthur states, “What happens when you cross a mental ill loner and a society that abandons him and treats him like crap? I’ll tell you what you get, Murray, you get what you ****ing deserve.” Murray’s murder causes a massive riot in the streets, and Arthur is finally seen by his peers.
After killing Murray, Arthur is captured and put into a cop car. Arthur sees the violence occurring on the street and calls the riots “beautiful.” Arthur, bloodied after being involved in an accident, stands on top of a car and reforms his smile with the blood from his face. This scene was the only time that I actually felt like I was finally watching a movie about the Joker.
It’s also important to note that this scene marked the beginning of not only just the Joker but for Batman as well. Arthur finally being recognized by his peers completed Joker’s transformation by intertwining the birth of the Joker with the murder of Bruce’s parents. I love the concept of Batman and Joker being born on the same night. Todd Phillips clearly understands how The Joker is the ying to Batman’s yang.
The blood smile scene will certainly go down as one of the most memorable scenes in comic book film history. It is right up there along with Wolverine’s death in Logan, Iron Man’s death in Avengers: Endgame, the reveal in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, the interrogation scene in The Dark Knight, and the Battle of New York in The Avengers.
Ledger or Phoenix?
This one is difficult because they are so different. Heath Ledger portrayed a character ripped straight out of the comics. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck spiraling into madness was brilliantly realized. Phoenix didn’t become Joker until the last few scenes of the film. I foresee this becoming one of the hottest debates around the water-cooler for the next several weeks.
My choice: Heath Ledger is still the best Joker. But not by a wide margin, which is the biggest complement I could possibly give Joaquin Phoenix.
The Ambiguous Ending
I’ll admit. I didn’t expect to like this film. Happily, Todd Phillips opted to leave the ending ambiguous similar to The Killing Joke. In many ways, Joker’s origin has always been multiple choice. By the end of the film, Phillips tasks us to decide for ourselves what we think is real and what isn’t. You can interpret many of the film’s scenes in many different ways.
How much of the film was all a part of Arthur’s imagination? How much of what we saw was actually factual?
I’m led to believe that the majority of what we saw in the last act was in Arthur’s mind. We’re shown Arthur in a white room banging his head against a door. How much after that clip really happened? Todd Phillips making Arthur as an unreliable narrator was such a smart decision. Even smarter, allowing fans to make their own decision on Arthur was a stroke of genius.
There are so many questions in my head. Was Arthur really Thomas Wayne’s son? Was Arthur’s mom truly insane or was it covered up by Thomas Wayne? Was Arthur adopted or was he Penny’s biological son? Who did Arthur actually kill? One thing is for sure: I will be thinking about Joker for a long, long time.
Could a Batman Exist in this Universe?
Joker is currently on pace for a 94 million dollar opening weekend and a worldwide opening of nearly $200 million. That would put Joker second behind 2018’s Venom ($207 million worldwide). CinemaScore has given Joker a rating of B+ while Joker sits with a fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating of 69%. It’s not too soon to call Joker a box office hit.
With Joker’s success, would it be possible for Warner Brothers to tie in the character into the DCEU? My quick answer is an emphatic NO. If you look at it on it’s surface, Batman would wipe the floor with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. This is more than likely not a universe featuring heroes in costumes jumping off roof tops.
However, the Joker essentially caused Batman’s existence within this universe. The easiest method to accomplishing this: there is no single Joker. What if the Joker film was more-so about the creation of the Joker legend and an icon among the slums of Gotham City? If so, Joaquin Phoenix would not have to reprise his role in this iteration of Joker moving forward.
Money talks, and it will be interesting to see what transpires over the next 12 months. Between Batman, Suicide Squad, and potentially Superman, much of the DCEU is currently undergoing a soft reboot. Where does that leave Joker? Joker’s success could certainly could lead a path to Warner Brothers soft rebooting the Joker in the DCEU.
Personally, let’s leave Joker alone. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is one of the best of the year. Joker is a beautifully shot film that deserves to be on its own (for now at least).