The Joker: Uncomfortably Good?


ikos Tavernise/Warner Bros

Joaquin Phoenix plays the Joker in the newest DC comics movie.

Josephine Sasse, Photo Editor

The man with the ghoulish smile and disturbing laugh has returned for his own movie. The newest addition to DC’s subpar movie franchise, Joker, came out October 4, 2019. The best way to describe the movie that I feel does it justice is uncomfortably good. 


The Joker is a classic DC comic character who is Batman’s nemesis, and complete opposite. The Joker laughs, smiles, and taunts the city of Gotham, whereas Batman is solemn, serious, and considers it his duty to protect Gotham.  


In the comics, the Joker’s character develops from a petty criminal stealing from jewelry shops, to becoming a terrorist, threatening the lives of people in the city of Gotham. However, Joker’s backstory was never fully covered in the comics, except for the brief insight that Joker used to be committed to Arkham, a hospital for the mentally insane. 


The Joker has been seen in many Batman films, however he has never had a solo film until now. In the past, the Joker’s character has been portrayed by Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and now Joaquin Phoenix. Each actor has brought out a different side to the maniacal clown, but Joaquin Phoenix really delved into the mind of the Joker’s character. Senior, Joe Jenkins, explained “Joaquin Phoenix did a really good job of explaining the backstory and beginning of the Joker’s character.” 


In my opinion, Joaquin Phoenix was the best choice to play the Joker. In this movie we see Phoenix portray the real truth behind the Joker’s character. He was abused by a delusional mother causing his laughing disorder. He lives for attention and validation from a world that never understood him. The Joker becomes a narcissistic maniac who thrives on causing chaos.    


The plot line of the movie is based around how Arthur Fleck became the Joker. Arthur Fleck is a misunderstood man living in the city of Gotham with his mother. He works as a clown for hire, but his real dream is to become a stand up comedian. Arthur suffers from a mental condition that forces him to laugh uncontrollably when he is nervous. 


His mother always told him he was brought to the world to bring smiles and joy to people, but he can’t help having only negative thoughts. Arthur Fleck slowly descends into madness after killing three businessmen in a subway in self defense. His life starts to unravel after learning that he might be adopted, as well.


Arthur’s mental state only continues to worsen after his comedy routine is played and made fun of on the popular TV program, “The Murray Show,”  which he admired. This causes him to act out and kill his mother and a man he used to work with as he spirals deeper into madness. 


Arthur fully transforms into the Joker for the first time. He dyes his hair green, paints his face in the classic joker makeup, and dresses in the infamous suit. While he is on the show, Arthur confesses to murdering the three businessmen in the subway and eventually shoots Murray. 


Gotham then breaks out in violence and chaos. People are rioting in the streets over political turmoil between the working class and the elite of the city. People hold a special grudge against Thomas Wayne a wealthy man running for mayor. 


Senior, Evan Hayek, explained, “Thomas Wayne was supposed to be portrayed as Trump. Between the way the city was calling him a facist and that he felt he was above society the character modeled present day views of our current president.” 


Throughout the movie Joker’s clown face became a symbol for the political movement after he killed the privileged men in the subway. The rioting crowd sees the Joker being taken away by the police but they set him free. In all the chaos the child who would eventually become Batman saw his parents killed in front of him by one of the supporters of the Joker. 


The last scene is of the Joker in Arkham Asylum causing mayhem while the attendants chase him through the halls after killing a social worker who was meeting with him. 


Throughout the movie the Joker creates a romantic relationship in his head with a woman who lives down the hall. At the end of the movie I was left wondering was any of it real or was it all in his head. 


I couldn’t help but feel uneasy during the movie, due to the very real way Joaquin Phoenix portrayed the Joker’s character. Anyone who heard the Joker’s maniacal laugh would feel the same way too. I was also caught off guard by the fact that DC comics actually came out with a good movie. 


Overall I thought the movie was a good combination of an interesting plot line, character depth, and realness.