“Nobody’s Laughing Now”: Joker Movie Review


Jason Cruz, Editor-In-Chief

There has been quite the fuss online about the new Joker movie, and although, overall the movie has been receiving amazing reviews in comparison to other DC films, the movie is facing a lot of criticism from some over the message it relays and from others who say the film is just outright boring. Last weekend, I got the opportunity to see this film for myself and without a doubt, Todd Phillips’s Joker is a wonderful surprise that blew my expectations for a comic-book movie out of the water. It is a nuanced approach to the blase comic-book origins movie that, in the wake of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), has over-saturated theaters these past few years and marvelously doubles as an interesting social commentary. With homages to films such as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, Phillips manages to create a shockingly sophisticated film that serves a greater purpose other than just being about the infamous Joker.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Arthur Fleck, a man challenged by mental illness who lives in poverty with his mother in Gotham City during the 1980s. Without giving away anything that hasn’t already been shown in the trailers, the political and social climate in Gotham during this film is a powder keg waiting to explode. As the movie unfolds, we not only watch the city fall into chaos, but more importantly we see Arthur’s slow descent into madness. The film’s overarching message is that villains are not born but rather created by the society they live in and Phillips perfectly captures these unnerving series of events that frame that message perfectly. The Joker is a persona the people of Gotham forced Arthur to become and, as said in the movie, “you get what you deserve”. 

To those who criticize the message portrayed in the film: you are a part of the problem that Phillips has spotlighted. Yes, you are correct in saying that society does not force people to do bad things, which is exactly why that is not the message of this film. People do bad things out of their own accord but what Phillips expressed in this story is that an apathetic society is what drives people to that clouded judgment. The Joker’s actions are unjustifiable but the reasoning behind his actions cements the character in such a moral grey area that makes the film quite stimulating to watch. By completely dismissing the social commentary by only holding bad people responsible for the bad things they do, you are contributing to another topic touch on within this film: complacency through inaction. By not acknowledging the problem we allow for it to continue to manifest to the point of explosion which is exactly what happened to Gotham. 

Though the violence may be tough to watch at times (which is something to be expected from a rated R movie), what is truly disturbing about this film is how reflective it is of our society. This may be a fictional story, but the amount of truth that it holds is quite eye opening and one cannot help but wonder how long it will be until we meet our very own Joker. This film shows us situations like massive riots that could be best described as the revolt of the proletariat (with matching “Eat The Rich” signs to go along with it), cities cutting budgets and how it affects the lives of the people we don’t notice, and the blatant cold apathy of society. All something that, despite the the 1980s setting, is quite apparent in our digital age. 

All in all, if you are a comic book fan who is in love with Gotham lore, this retelling of the Joker’s story only pays some homage to comic source material leaving the rest to be an entirely new take on the story. With that being said, despite the little bit of home-brew Philips creates as a script writer, Joker undoubtedly does our favorite psychotic clown justice and marks the beginning of a new era for DC movies that both comic book lovers and casual moviegoers can enjoy. Definitely keep an eye on this film come award season because I have no doubt in my mind that this will be a strong Oscars contender giving Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame a run for its money.