Joker ★★★½

At the end of the day Joker boils down to being a remake of Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy set in a comic-book world that reminisces Scorsese's Taxi Driver whilst being infused with elements from Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. As a mash-up of those three Todd Phillips' film works quite well yet overall is not very inspiring or original due to these heavy influences. In that regard it's rather similar to James Gray's Ad Astra which also lacks originality due to simply stiring elements from different movies together.

Joker is a so-so movie with a handful of cringeworthy generic tropes and some quite enticing moments. That opening scene is not very good, all of the scenes with the neighbor I could do without and most of all everything with the Waynes could simply just go. Make this your King of Comedy remake but substitute Rupert Pupkin with The Joker, all that DC referencing is utterly irrelevant.

The whole theme of mental health and failing social security is neat in theory but the movie offers no real insight into this Gotham world. I guess the viewer has to imprint his/her knowledge about 1970's New York City to understand this world, as far as the movie goes we see some kids beating up a clown, the mentioning of super rats and three drunk douchebags on a subway train. When Arthur says it's getting crazier out there every day the audience doesn't really feel it. Which is not relevant for his psychological deterioration but in context of the starting clown movement.

I did enjoy the last segment when The Joker finally emerges. As other villains like Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter I never really cared about how these men became who they are. I was simply fascinated by their personality. Darth Vader is not enriched as a character by knowing his Midichlorian numbers are through the roof. Neither do I need to know that The Joker was some loser who sucked at stand-up comedy (that critiscism therefore applies also to The Killing Joke).

If The Joker from the last 20 minutes of this movie would just show up in similar fashion to Heath Ledger's portrayal in The Dark Knight I think the character would be even stronger than knowing his Arthur Fleck background. In The Killing Joke The Joker argues that it takes only one bad day to become insane. Well, in Arthur's case it takes a bit longer and the movie stacks it up in rapid succession after decades of basically nothing.

Joaquin Phoenix is fine as ever although not as as strong as in The Master. I did appreciate the lack of action (for the most part), focusing on the character rather than blowing CGI pixels up which is the route Marvel tends to take. In general the DC universe is way more interesting than Marvel, instead of churning out movies that look like each other and follow identical beats DC now delivers a range of movies that look and feel different. Aquaman is different than Wonder Woman, Shazam! distinguishes itself from Joker. That doesn't mean all of these DC movies are good (some are terrible) but at least they're not bland assembly-line works.