October 4, 2019, was a momentous day for the DC cinematic universe. Yes it is true, on this day the outstanding and long awaited film ‘Joker’ was released. A gritty and raw take on a comic book character audiences have cherished for quite some time, the film achieves something that hasn’t been seen in recent comic book films. Todd Phillips, the director, created a film that generates a similar vibe to that of the first ‘Iron Man’. Obviously the films vary vastly in tone, but not so much in the significance of their feeling of independence.
‘Joker’ is a film packed full of symbolism, beautiful character development, and social commentary. It has quickly become something that will leave a mark on this particular genre of comic book films.
‘Joker’ has several instances of symbolism and hidden meanings throughout the film. Something that was shown several times in trailers was Arthur, the main character, dancing in a very distinct manner. The dancing is a method of developing Arthur’s character as unusual and off-kilter due to how off-putting his dancing is. The dancing is also a method of signaling key points for Arthur’s journey in the film. Each time Arthur dances, something big and irreversible takes place. His dancing can be seen as a step further to him ultimately becoming the character we’re all familiar with, the Joker. The tone shifts, the music changes significantly, the dancing scenes are meant to stand out for the purpose of seeing Arthur developing as more than an outcast from society, and as a sort of beacon for all the other outcasts.
Saying that ‘Joker’ will leave you feeling eerie and uncomfortable after first seeing it is a wild understatement. Controversy has surrounded the film since the general public has a chance to get their hands on it. There is a large group of viewers who claim that this film encourages violence through its grotesque and vivid approach to Arthur’s actions. However, this group of people is letting the violence get in the way of seeing the intended purpose behind these scenes. Each time something violent happens on screen, Arthur is internally developing as a character. After each irreversible decision he makes, Arthur’s demeanor changes. He becomes more confident, visibly more open and he stands up straighter. He starts to become the Joker that viewers have known since they were little kids. The film performs a service by not censoring certain scenes, by emphasizing the state that Arthur is in after each of these scenes. It is something that wouldn’t resonate as much if the director decided to use a cutaway as opposed to fully showing the violence.
The main character of ‘Joker’ suffers heavily from depression, and takes medication and takes part in therapy sessions. An important theme in the film is mental health, as well as how society tends to neglect those with mental health issues and not give them the proper resources to cope with said issues. Arthur has his resources cut off from him and does not get the dialogue he needs to help him deal with his problems, making him the representation of the population that does not get the aid that they deserve. To say that the message of the film is that everybody with depression could become a criminal is far from the truth. But, it is a reflection of the lack of care for people with mental illness such as school shooters, who didn’t get the necessary attention they should have. Take away the supervillain aspect of the film, and you get a movie about someone who is in a really bad place, causing him to lash out in awful ways.
Something worth mentioning, is the luxury ‘Joker’ was granted by not already being a part of a franchise. There is talk about Joaquin Phoenix not wanting to reprise his role as Arthur. The point is that ‘Joker’ was not held back by a preset atmosphere or formula that it would have if it were a part of a connected universe. The same can be said for the first ‘Iron Man’ film, the first of several in the MCU. Now that the MCU is established and cannot be disregarded, each film within that universe has to adhere to a certain tone that other films in the universe have. This is not an issue in ‘Joker’ and ‘Iron Man’ because they are their own entities. They have the free will to be whatever they want to be. It’s nice to see a film not having to be held back like the ones in the MCU, which serve their own respective purpose as comic book films.
‘Joker’ is a refreshing breath of air in the popular genre of comic book movies. It speaks on social issues, tells a brilliant story and makes you leave the theater making sure you are not in the same place as the troubled protagonist Arthur.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment