Todd Phillips‘ and Scott Silver‘s take on one of television and the silver screen’s most debilitating antagonists, ‘Joker’, is the very definition of a ride on the wild side. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck / Joker, the film is a not-so-subtle take on the intricately disturbing beginnings that shaped the sadistic existence and actions of Gotham City’s crime syndicate creme.
I was priviliged to watch an advance screening of ‘Joker’ at the ANGA IMAX cinema, thanks to film distributors, Crimson Multimedia.
The year is 1981, and Arthur is an impoverished middle-aged man living with, and taking care of his mother. While his job as as an ‘invisble’ clown parading the streets of Gotham often sucks, primarily because of the mistreatment he experiences at the hands of the citizens of the fast paced metropolis, he genuinely deduces pleasure from making other people laugh.
As fate would have it, his life begins, more accurately would be continues, to fall apart in a rather rapid series of unfortunate events, and he finally snaps. With all restraint perfunctorily dissipated, it’s astonishing to see the rise to fame of Arthur, from someone who does not matter, to one of the most important people in a city that’s grappling with its fledgling identity of industry, crime and disatisfaction.
In the midst of the chaos, there are instances of hope and redemption however, as the Joker finds someone who can tolerate his quirkiness, perhaps to tame his insatiable needs. It was rather quirky to me to see Sophie Dumond (played by Zazzie Beetz) as Arthur’s love interest, purely because I’ve been conditioned to match Joker to Harley Quinn, who by the way will feature in her own origin story ‘Birds of Prey’, early next year.
It’s not long before there are more astrocities, two consecutive of which break the camel’s back. All hell breaks loose, as Arthur’s startling actions, on live television no less, spark waves upon waves of (in some cases) outrage and (in other cases) widespread violence and what seems like outright anarchy. It’s a dark and grimy scene as we see Joker triumphantly stretch out his arms on top of a police vehicle, right in the throng of a crowd of vigilantes baying for the blood of the establishment.
It’s quite some powerful imagery of the dissent a population that has for long tolerated governance and systems, but will no longer take things lying down – kind of like how Arthur himself was comfortable with an honest living all his life, until he could take it all no more, and something just mentally unpacked him to the possibilities of more. The ‘more’ happened to be a frightening dark execution of his most primal existence.
One of my biggest questions however is, if Arthur was that advanced in age in the origin story, what superpowers does he possess to still be Batman’s most formidable opponent in his adult life?
‘Joker’ may be an uncomfortable watch, but one that explores the depths to which, when misguided, wronged or aggrieved, individuals or society may go to have their voices heard. The consequences however, tend to spark a system of resistance, and the emergence of a mighty caped defender.
‘Joker’ premieres across cinemas in Kenya on October 4th 2019. Distributed by Crimson Multimedia