Joker: An Incomparable Experience

E.C. Repp, Staff Writer

Stunned silence. That was what I heard during the credits of Joker. Never before have I seen a movie that made me feel this way. I was uncomfortable throughout every scene, to the point where I was actually nervous to see what came next. The climax was so intense that I could feel my heart pulsating throughout my entire body. No other movie has made me feel so scared. 

What’s strange is that this isn’t even remotely close to being a horror movie; it’s a character study through and through. But this story of the complete psychological breakdown of a human felt extraordinarily and scarily real.

I didn’t enjoy watching Joker. However, I legitimately think it’s one of the most perfect movies I’ve ever seen.”

Joker isn’t exactly a newcomer to the big screen; he’s made countless iconic appearances since Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. However, none of these movies really delved into what made him what he is. We had really only gotten one good look into that prior to this movie, in the form of Alan Moore’s comic “The Killing Joke.” It’s been repeatedly and consistently praised ever since its release for giving a memorable and chilling origin of the Joker. However, it doesn’t even compare to the new film. In “The Killing Joke,” you never felt his pain. You never thought about how things might have been able to turn out differently had somebody had simply smiled at him on a subway train. You never thought about how you could have unintentionally caused this. In short, Joker is simply more real, and leaves the viewer with a far greater impression.

This movie, in truth, is not about the clown prince of crime. It’s about a man who is beaten down by the cruel world surrounding him. The viewer can look at many of these scenes and relate it to a time where they’ve done something similar to others, likely without the intent to harm them. Nothing that happens in this movie is simply the fault of an accident at a power plant; it’s your fault. This sets the movie so far apart from any other interpretation of the Joker that it’s almost impossible to compare.

No matter how great the script is, it would mean nothing if Joaquin Phoenix’s performance didn’t sell the character. Thankfully, it absolutely does, in what is without a doubt one of the year’s strongest performances.  As amazing as Ledger’s interpretation of the character was, there’s no way that he could have pulled this off as well as Phoenix does. In fact, there isn’t much here that is easily comparable or similar to past versions of the character. Batman’s not here, but it doesn’t matter. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the Joker doesn’t need him, and it doesn’t feel like pieces of the story are missing without him, which is a trap that films like Venom can easily fall into. This movie has barely any action, a stark contrast to Joker’s appearances in the past. Simply put, this movie is extremely different from any other movies in the past starring the Joker.

Joaquin Phoenix opens Joker as Arthur Fleck, a man who is repeatedly hurt. He’s never happy, everything goes wrong for him. One thing leads to another, and there isn’t a definitive moment when he snaps. By the end of the movie, Arthur is no longer the man he was. He slowly pushes himself further and further, and no single event here is forced. It’s little change by little change, and it eventually moves very far away from where it started. Once again, it feels real, to a horrifying degree.

Leaving the theater, it was impossible to stop thinking about this movie. About the uncomfortable feeling that maintained throughout the entire film. About how real it felt. About the scenes that made me completely reevaluate what even happened in the first place. About the absolute masterpiece that I had just seen. The pure emotion that this movie and the questions that it raises make it absolutely worth seeing. If you watch this movie, you will likely not enjoy the experience. It’s intense, uncomfortable, and not at all pleasant to watch. However, I think that especially in this day and age, it’s important for this film to exist.

Rating: 10/10