The following Blu-ray was provided to me by Warner Brothers for Review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
I wont lie, when the Joker movie was first announced I cared less. When the first pressers went out saying it would be nothing like the comics, I really cared less. But as I am a comic book fan, as well as a film fan I still followed the production. The more I read and saw the more interested I became. No lets make one thing clear for the people who have not yet seen this, based off the fact it does not take place in the comic book world. In the comics the Joker is a complete nut case. Schizophrenic to say the least. So he has several versions of his origin that he tells as he’s insane. Now the Joker origin that fans consider the defining one is from Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”. No the motto of this entire story is that it only takes one bad day to make you go insane.
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a clown for hire in a bad part of Gotham City. He lives with his mom, who clearly has issues. She constantly writes letters to Thomas Wayne of who she used to work for as a maid. When the film opens we see Arthur spinning a sign around when a group of punks steal it. Arthur runs after them but is assaulted in an alley. He goes back to the office he works and one of the other clowns gives him a gun for protection. Arthur rides the bus for transportation and when he is traveling home he begins making faces at a little girl to make her smile. Her mother becomes upset and starts yelling at Arthur. He begins laughing uncontrollably and hands her a medical card stating his laugh is actually a medical disorder. He gets medicine from the Social Service Department but he has also just been informed they have lost their funding and will no longer be treating him. Arthur goes home after all of this and escapes by watching The Murray Franklin Show. Its essentially Gotham’s version of The Tonight Show and is hosted by Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro). He dreams of being a stand up comic, and a guest on the show. He also meets his neighbor down the hall named Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz) who he develops feeling for and even invites her to a stand p comedy show he is doing.
Things unfortunately go downhill fast for Arthur as the gun he was given falls out of his pocket during a job he’s doing at a children’s hospital. This leads to Arthur being fired. He takes the subway home but is assaulted by a group of upper class yuppies who work for Wayne Enterprises. They were harassing a female passenger, which caused Arthur to have his laugh so they turn their attention to him, beating him pretty good. Arthur snaps and pulls his gun and murders them. Thomas Wayne goes on tv talking about how good these murdered men were which causes the lesser class citizens to start getting behind the “Clown” who murdered them and rise above the rich that control Gotham. Arthur has his stand up show and when he turns on the Murray Franklin show he finds his act being played while Murray mocks him. Throw in the fact that he finds one of the letters his mom is sending to Thomas Wayne implicating that he is Arthurs Father really causes Arthur to fully snap and his actions cause mass riots in Gotham, all because of one bad day.
To say this film is a masterpiece is almost not giving it enough credit. Beautiful cinematography gives it that very derepressed 70’s look and feel. The film definitely has a Taxi Driver vibe about it in terms of setting, look, and even plot development, but its something more. It’s a great look into a mentally challenged man who just one day explodes. Phoenix, who lost over 50lbs for the film gives the performance of a lifetime. From the laugh to the voice, to the little quirks he possesses he truly gives an Oscar Winning performance. The adding of a medical card for his laugh was a fantastic touch. DeNiro is great in his small part as he really is the final straw for Arthur to fully snap, and I have to say that Frances Conroy as Penny Fleck, Arthurs insane mother is amazing as well. You know she is not all there, but you are able to go from feeling sorry to hating in a matter of seconds. A great performance by the entire cast to say the least. This is my second favorite film of 2019, and I wont lie, this is the version of the Joker I want to see in DC Films moving forward.
Warner Brothers has done a fantastic job on this Blu-ray transfer. The colors look fantastic. This film really has a drive in kind of vibe going for it, and this film has the look. The crisp vibrant colors especially the yellows really pop out. The score, which is fantastic sounds amazing bellowing through your surround sound. I have re watched the “Stair Dance” several times with the volume up high. It’s a must add to your collection.
The film was met with such criticism for fear of sparking violence, but that should have never been the case. The Joker is a character study of a mentally challenged individual who finally can take no more of what life dumps on him and snaps. The real message that should be taken away is simply be nice to people. This is a must see film, that I hope wins Phoenix an Oscar. Its also a film in which the Joker, the greatest of all DC Villains is really a sympathetic character who you end up cheering on. Pick this up today.
Overall 4.5 out of 5 Stars!