Joker: the psychological thriller of the year

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GRAPHIC BY DEVYN KELLY

BY ALEX CASTRO
STAFF WRITER

  You want to know how I got these stars?

  On Oct. 4, the psychological thriller Joker, a new film interpretation based on the classic Detective Comics (DC) villain, was released to the big screen. The film stars the brilliant Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur P. Flecke, the man who would become the Joker, and was co-written and directed by Todd Phillips.

  While not being a traditional thriller, the film’s use of a combination of suspense and character building is accentuated by the technical skill and techniques which allow them to flourish. 

  From the start, one of the major successes of the film is its acting. Arthur P. Flecke, played by Joaquin Phoenix, did an outstanding job capturing the Joker’s maddening road to insanity.  The central plot of the movie revolves around Flecke and his acting makes up a substantial part of the film, ad such he does an admirable job of displaying the emotional change that dictate Arthur Flecke’s descent into madness.  In a thriller such as this, where there is no central antagonist, but rather an idea or principle, the actions and reactions of the characters are especially important. Phoenix’s emotional acting increases the audience’s empathy, leading to a fulfilled and emotional experience. 

  Not only this, but the unique way that Joker unifies and connects to its themes and characters allows the directors to establish and maintain the tone of the film, a crucial component to the movie’s success. In this sense, Joker is incredibly immersive. For instance, the personalities of the characters and the plot is perfectly in place with negative and critical tone of the film. The characters we are introduced to are weathered and tough, fitting well into the callous society we see. The actions and beliefs, developed through dialogue, expressions and actions, build up the setting to such an extent that it is easier for the audience to empathize and understand their world and motivations. 

  Despite being developed throughout years of comic book writing and media, the Joker’s character has remained unchanged which Joker attempts to address. Yet, director Todd Phillips’ creation of divergent canonical character dissociates from his established perspective and creates a dual version of the villain. In a recent June interview, Phillips stated that he would “not use anything from the comics to bolster his film.” 

  Eventually, this proved to be a wise choice that disrupted the film’s continuity within the realm of DC for the better. the film;s well executed technical elements also subtly highlight different aspects of the characters and storyline. For example, these minute details include the use of different camera movement types, all of which the directors used to relay information to the audience. During long and emotional moments, the camera portrays a sense of disconnection and emotionlessness. Conversely, the directors use a lot of handheld camera control, which very accurately portrays the intense emotion and tension throughout the film. In total, it creates a very authentic and natural feeling scene as well as perfectly relay the incredibly acted emotions to the audience.   

  What’s more, viewers can observe the attention to detail exhibited by the producers. From Arthur Flecke’s body type to the antique cars and interior decorating, the  intricate attention to detail throughout the film is astonishing. In total, it helps the entire premise and setting relate back to the main character and his plight. 

  Additionally, as stated by the producers, the basis of the film was situated on a very memorable classic comic “Batman: The Killing Joke” in which Batman breaks Joker, literally. This sets off a path of death and destruction, something rarely seen in early comics. The comic is exceptionally dark as its crooked, twisted storyline vividly depicts the plummet of a character into madness.

  Interestingly, distinct to the film are its methods. Rather than push the boundaries of the Joker’s unique niche in the DC universe, Phillips and Phoenix worked together to birth an almost independent interpretation of all aspects of the Joker . It does this by utilizing the differences both in the story of other movies and the character profile. Arthur Flecke is unlike Heath Ledger’s anti-heroic agent of chaos and the animated TV shows deranged villain. Throughout Joker, Flecke proves  to be a refreshingly realistic portrayal of everyday failures and criticisms, well suited to the producers vision. 

  Consequently, the select film critics and festival goers who had the privilege of seeing the movie before its public  release spoke outright about the film’s controversy, sparking heated debate and conversation.

  While the film is successful, there lies a few faults. In the thriller’s endeavor to step away from the comic book world, it needed to incorporate new challenges and difficulties to justify Flecke’s actions and endpoint, becoming the Joker, while these proved cinematically beneficial, their unintended message may prove to be detrimental to the film’s reviews   

  While not blatantly stating it, the thriller contained very real issues in which need to be addressed. On his road to insanity, the Joker blames the world for his pitfalls and justifies his actions by claiming that he had no choice, and society and the world was out to get him. In a time where the world seems rife with tragedy and the reality of our world seems to shift in favor of fear and hate, Joker inspires a mindset which glorifies violence.

  Moreover, the film is almost entirely based on the idolization of a once two-dimensional character, and encourages the audience to sympathize with the poor protagonist Arthur Fleck, who is apparently abused by society. However, the audience can romanticize his flaws, to the point where they neglect his true colors and what he ultimately becomes. 

  Not to mention, the depictions of violence seen throughout the film are horrifically realistic and may have an encouraging effect on those who idealize men like Fleck, men known to commit acts of indiscriminate hate. And for those who would look deeper, the same comic that lent a mysterious and dark tone to the film, the comic issue “The Killing Joke” contains graphic content, like sexual assault, crippling injury and the dark aspects of mental illness. 

  Of course, it can be argued that directors such as Phillip’s cannot be held accountable for the reactions of their audience, and according to Philllips, the film was meant to be a commentary on societal trends, and films do not have that kind of large influence “[Movies are] mirrors of society, but they’re never molders.”

  Ultimately, Joker expertly wielded its performances and techniques to earn the name of “psychological thriller of the year.” 

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