Sungjoon Chang/ Northwood HS 11th
Joker, a long awaited psychological thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix as Joker, finally hit cinemas on October 4th. The film, which is based on DC Comics characters, was directed by Todd Phillips, who took on the controversial project after many years of directing mostly comedic and satirical films such as Borat, Old School, and the Hangover Series.
The movie depicts the story of Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian suffering from mental illnesses, living in the fictional city of Gotham. Fleck goes down a path of crime and chaos, throwing Gotham City into rioting and disarray. The film grossed $96 million on its first weekend alone, breaking the record for the largest October opening in history.
While the movie achieved commercial success, it came with polarizing reviews. On one hand, Jim Vejvoda, a film critic for IGN, gave the film a perfect score, claiming that Phoenix’s performance was “Oscar-worthy”. Xan Brooks of The Guardian also gave the film a perfect score, describing it as “gloriously daring and explosive”. On the other hand, Glenn Kenny, a movie critic, called the movie “pernicious garbage” as a social commentary.
Criticism of the movie stems from the fact that the movie ap1peals to the incel community, an online subculture that defines themselves as unable to find a romantic or sexual partner due to societal problems. Some claim that the main character, Joker, is reminiscent of those who commit mass shootings, due to the fact that at least 4 mass murders resulting in 45 deaths in North America were committed by those who identified as incels. In addition, the film is being accused of inciting violence, because of its sympathetic portrayal of the mass murderer, Joker. During the film’s release, there were multiple online threats claiming potential violence during the screening of the movie on image-bulletin boards such as 4chan. While these claims were not credible, it lead to an increase in police presence around theaters in New York and Los Angeles. In fact, the movie theater where the 2012 Aurora Colorado shooting occurred refused to screen the movie.
While opposition to the controversial nature of Joker is strong, others claim that the movie is simply a masterpiece, and is a real depiction of the problems in our society. Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe called the movie powerful, stating “to appreciate Joker I believe you have to have either gone through something traumatic in your lifetime (and I believe most of us have) or understand somewhere in your psyche what true compassion is”. Whether or not the movie is a success, it is undeniably an important, must-watch movie in our life time.
<Sungjoon Chang/ Northwood HS 11th