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Joaquin Phoenix boldly reinvents Batman's cackling arch-nemesis in Todd Phillips' dark new vision of the supervillain origin story, also starring Robert De Niro.
The clown prince of crime is alive and mentally unwell in Gotham City in Todd Phillips' grippingly atmospheric supervillain origin story, Joker. While a never-better Joaquin Phoenix paints on the famed maniacal smile with his own blood at one memorable climactic moment of messianic rebirth, what's most noteworthy about this gritty entry in the DC canon and the lead actor's sensational performance is the pathos he brings to a pathetically disenfranchised character — just like countless others in a metropolis in which the social chasm separating the haves from the have-nots has become a pit of incendiary rage.
Superhero - Universe - Intersects - Ways - Batman
This is very much tethered to the superhero universe and intersects in ways both familiar and not with canonical Batman lore. But Joker could also be a film for audiences who don't much care about the usual Hollywood comic-strip assembly line. The smart screenplay by Phillips and Scott Silver anchors the story in a fiercely divided city with echoes of a contemporary, morally bankrupt America, albeit in the dire economic straits of a decade ago, or the next crisis that's just around the corner, depending on which financial forecasts you believe.
Built around a credible spiral from lonely outsider to deranged killer, it's as much a neo-noir psychological character study grounded in urban alienation and styled after Taxi Driver as a rise-of-the-supervillain portrait. It's arguably the best Batman-adjacent movie since The Dark Knight and Warner should see mighty box office numbers to reflect that. The must-see factor of Phoenix's riveting performance alone — it's both unsettling and weirdly affecting — will be significant.
Film - Homage - Martin - Scorsese - Title
The film is also an obvious homage to another Martin Scorsese title, The King of Comedy, with Robert De Niro...
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