A few months ago, I saw the first trailer for “Joker”. At first, I had zero interest in the film. I’d grown tired and annoyed with how many versions the clown prince had gone through. But even with the still open wound of Jared Leto’s lackluster portrayal of the Joker, I went to see the new one.
Walking into the theater, my expectations were low. But I remained hopeful that Joaquin Phoenix could bring some new energy to one of my favorite comic book characters.
I sat in my seat as the lights went down. The opening scene we see Phoenix sitting in front of a mirror with clown makeup on his face. He puts his fingers in his mouth and forces a smile. This was a rather simple yet powerful beginning to the movie.
As a kid I watched and read DC stories. The origin of the Joker has always been rather tragic and depressing. In the comics there are a few different origins of the Joker but they all follow the same pattern. A man, sometimes married, falls into a vat of chemicals where his skin is turned pasty white, his hair green, and his lips blood red. This isn’t the same for other forms of the Joker. Such as movies where he is sometimes seen as a gangster or just simply doesn’t have an origin.
In the new movie, our Joker isn’t a mobster or scientist. He’s usually an unnamed villain but in this movie he goes by Arthur. A performing clown that works various jobs through a talent agency, Arthur is repeatedly abused and tormented by people around him until he finally, like all versions of the Joker, snaps. On a subway ride home he ends up shooting three business men. This sparks riots and chaos throughout the city.
Toward the end of the movie, Arthur is asked to appear on a late night TV show after a video of his stand-up comedy goes “viral.” On the show he asks to be called Joker, because that’s what the host referred to him as previously. He wears a suit similar to the original comic book character with his hair dyed green and his face painted. He snaps again and kills the host of the show. After that, he’s arrest but later gets rescued by his clown supporters.
For me, I thought the movie was amazing. It brought a much needed darkness and grit to the Joker that hadn’t been done on screen before. With as many adaptations of the character that we’ve had, nothing like this has been done. The Joker has always stuck with me in a way other villains haven’t. The Joker doesn’t have powers. He’s not a “supervillain.” He’s just a man that loses his mind. He’s beaten down over and over until he just … snaps.
It’s a tragic, realistic, story of what can happen when one loses all sense of reality.
Shea Hubbs is a Nickerson sophomore studying journalism