High Rating


Warner Bros.

Movie poster for Joker.

Demitri Stathakis, Assistant To The Adviser

Throw out everything you know about the joker. In DC’s newest rendition of the comic classic villain, Director Todd Phillips creates an entirely original and modern version of the clown price of crime, in a story never before explored.

Warning: this review contains spoilers for ‘Joker’ (2019) Readers be warned!

From the beginning, we are instantly thrown into a dark world. Gotham City is in the middle of a garbage strike, and it is made clear the city is struck with chaos and violence. All the viewer is given is a strange image of a man uncontrollably seemingly both laughing and crying, a large testament of the film to come. The man is introduced to the viewer as Arthur Fleck, a man with obvious mental illness who relies on medication to get him through his days.

Arthur works as a clown in the middle of busy Gotham, and it’s through his occupation that most of his struggles occur. He is constantly criticized and made fun of, and we soon get the viewpoint of a broken man. It’s through Arthur’s pursuit of happiness that you truly realize there may be no hope for him. 

One thing I thought stood out very strongly about the film was the new interpretation of Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. His version of the character was unlike any other in the fact that we see him as a real man, living a somewhat normal life, and struggling to live with his ‘condition’ as it is referred to throughout the duration of the movie. Phoenix delivers a truly unsettling performance which contributes to the overall mood of the film extremely well, especially through his incessant laughter which leaves you intrigued but also disturbed. The laughter is a major plot point, as the Joker’s signature maniacal laugh never had an origin per se, so Todd Phillips took his own twist on the character, explaining that Arthur cannot actually control the laugh, and it could occur at any time as a part of his ‘condition’.

An extreme criticism the film received was that it portrayed mental health in a very irresponsible and chaotic manor, as one of the turning points of the movie shows Arthur kill three men on a train with a gun. Although the scene is very vulgar and violent, it is ultimately necessary to develop the character of Arthur Fleck into Joker. At no point does the film try to solve Arthur’s mental health issues, but that is not the point of the film. The point is to show a psychotic villain, not to coddle the viewer and tell them that everything is going to be okay, and that this character will receive a happy ending. The film also takes place in the early 1980’s, a time where little to none was actually known pertaining to mental illness. Fleck later even states later in the film that he has always been this way, but he never accepted it until now. 

In terms of creating a new story, Todd Phillips successfully did just that. He took a comic villain that had been done so many times, but gave him human characteristics and a long-awaited origin story on film. It is a very realistic adaptation of just what can drive a man to insanity, and the relationship between Arthur and his mother is one of the relationships that helps drive the whole story, as it shows that not everything you are told is always true. 

One of the more prominent plot points of the film revolves around Thomas Wayne, father of our favorite Caped Crusader Batman, and Arthur Fleck’s mother Penny. She is insistent that Wayne is Arthur’s father, but you later find out Penny is extremely delusional, and was admitted to the mental hospital for a long period of time. Delusions are an aspect of the film that you as the viewer do not even realize are present up until this moment, and then it all hits you at once. Arthur’s “girlfriend” was never actually his girlfriend, it was simply a figment of his imagination. In the last hour of the film, you are constantly asking yourself what is reality and what is simply in Fleck’s mind. 

The final sequence of the movie has to be the most impressive aspect of Joker for me. It is here where we see Arthur truly make the transition into the man who is Joker, as he dons his signature face paint and green hair. A recurring theme all throughout is the soundtrack that plays in Arthur’s mind, as he dances his way through Gotham, and turns evil moments into a sick and twisted joke. Phoenix’s dialogue on the ending talk show is truly impressive here, and ironically enough, it is the most the character talks in the whole film. When he kills Murray Franklin live on the air, this is the penultimate moment of the movie, and when we realize that there is no saving Fleck. He has embraced being Joker. 

There is almost no dialogue in the final ten minutes of the film, and we are instead flooded by strong cinematic shots of a Gotham City in chaos, flooded with supporters of Joker. It is here where in my opinion the most jaw-dropping moment occurs, as we see the deaths of Martha and Thomas Wayne in the infamous movie theater alleyway that is seen as the beginning of Batman’s story. It provides an extremely unexpected and new moment in the Batman universe, as Joker has now become the sole reason for Batman’s existence. It is in the riot where Phoenix delivers his final scene as Joker, dancing on a police vehicle flooded by his supporters all wearing clown masks. This is a truly eerie series of events which leave the viewer still in shock, but also mesmerized by the amazing cinematography occurring on screen.

Through great original storytelling and insight, Joker truly hits it out of the park and delivers an honestly unsettling film which constantly leaves the viewer wanting more. For once, I’m actually excited for a DC film, with Zach Snyder’s ‘The Batman’ scheduled for a 2021 release.