Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” Explores the Origin Story of the Iconic Villain


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The anticipation surrounding Todd Phillip’s Joker is no joke. Inevitably, Phillip’s take on the iconic Batman villain would be analyzed and dissected by the fandom. The trailer shows a gritty take on the classic Batman “villain,” reminding many of the extraordinary talent of the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

The Joker trailer gives the audience a mesmerizing taste of the transformation from Arthur Fleck to Joker. I watched the film this past weekend, and I left the theater feeling weird being in the “real world” again after being engulfed in the film.


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The trailer opens with Arthur/Joker:

“My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose. To bring laughter and joy to the world. Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?…I used to think that my life was a tragedy. And now I realize it’s a comedy.”

The film explores themes of isolation, loneliness, and childhood trauma. Joaquin Phoenix gives a harrowing but captivating performance as the film follows his transformation from Arthur to Joker. I’d be surprised if Phoenix didn’t take home an Oscar for this one.

This film is a lot of things. It questions society’s treatment of people who are disenfranchised. It critiques the under-funded social care systems currently set in place. It explores the idea of cyclical abuse.


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In a conversation with the Academy, Todd Phillips said that he really wanted “to do a deep dive character study into one person,” which is the main reason that Joker is compelling.

“Hurt people hurt people.” Joaquin Phoenix spoke with Will King:

“For me, it was about the enduring effects of childhood trauma. That’s what kind of guided me into this character. I thought it was the foundation – it was the one part of his experience – the story that he’s telling that I believe. And I think that it colors all of his behavior for the entire movie.”


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Joker is complex. It deals with issues, like mental illness, that our society has tried “correcting” in many ways throughout history. In an interview with Jake Hamilton, Todd Philips was asked if it was possible to sympathize with a monster like Joker. He said the following:

“Yeah, I think it’s important. I think, ultimately, the movie’s…about empathy in general and having empathy for maybe those that are less fortunate or those that are left-footed with the world like Arthur is.”


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Phoenix so eloquently gave his thoughts of the film as a whole:

“I think that it challenges the audience in a way. It challenges our perceptions about our world and about each other. And I think it invites you to engage with it and to participate with it in a way that a lot of movies don’t. It doesn’t provide simple answers or solutions for anything that the character goes through. And it asks you to make up your own mind about what motivates him or what is the cause of this behavior or this transformation. And I think that that’s pretty rare.”


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If there’s any film you watch this year, it’s this one. Among the saturated superhero movies, this one’s a diamond in the rough.

Notes Worth Mentioning:

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