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Aug 30 2019

Yes No Maybe So: Joaquin Phoenix is "Joker"

by Tony Ruggio

The internet's been aflush with grousing over Todd Phillips' upcomingJoker,a boiling pot of loyal DC fanboys and girls versus cinephile crusaders.Stir the pot with critics and pundits who have read an early draft of the script (why do that?) and the discourse,pre-discourse,and twee little jokes about discourse have been headache-inducing.I don't care so much for pearl-clutching over what the film's worldview might be...judging films on such things,particularly before anyone has seen one minute of finished film,is unfair to art and the place it occupies in pop culture.It's not a filmmaker's responsibility to coddle a country or avoid uncomfortable points of view.

That being said,there are pre-existing mixed feelings,and the final trailer only exacerbates them…


• "All I have are negative thoughts."Joaquin Phoenix is one of our best working actors today and he can imbue even the most basic psychological tics and tropes with something more.And that LAUGH.

• Lawrence Sher,just off of murkyGodzilla: King of the Monsters,has stepped up his game as DP and seems to have delivered a very textured,filmic canvas for Phoenix to play in,a welcome reprieve from Marvel's grays and green screens.

• MAKEUP.The Joker that paints his face is more interesting than the Joker who didn't choose to look that way.


• The similarities toTaxi DriverandKing of Comedyare no longer enticing,they're evoking a lack of inspiration.Don't forget Scorsese was once attached and then bailed.Not a good sign.

• Bullying,economic anxiety,mental illness,an ailing parent.I have no issue with the moral implications of Joker as protagonist resembling real-world psychos.I have an issue with turning Joker into,more or less,your garden-variety psych case of sicko.


• High possibility of psychological clunkiness.Too vague and Joker comes off underwritten.Too specific yet told in broad strokes and Joker comes off like a dimestore shrink's idea of psychosis.Specificity is often botched (see Bullseye in Season 3 ofDaredevil).Can Phillips and co.achieve the right balance?

• Is it just me or is the Joker played out?Maybe I'm just getting old,but we've already seen four different iterations of this character on screen,five if you countMask of the Phantasm.There's a limit to how many times a character should be redone or re-imagined for the movies and Jokers may have reached that limit with Jared Leto.

Final Verdict:Maybe So.We'll see.Todd Phillips is somewhat underrated,but does he have it in him?

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Reader Comments (23)

I don't know if the movie will be any good,but these are two of the best trailers (especially the first) I have seen in recent years.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterWimsey

For the record,no mother ever has said "Would you please stop bothering my kid"to a stranger making the kid laugh.Never.

And that may sound like a ridiculously small criticism,but it feels like an artificially dark world view,y'know?

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Nihilistic crap.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

I'll allow this if we can have an angsty antiheroic Catwoman movie with Keri Russell.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterH

Did we really need another movie that can easily be used by MRAs / incels / white supremacists to romanticize their own radicalization?HARD pass.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSean Diego

An angsty antiheroic Catwoman movie with Keri Russell sounds so much more interesting.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

WhatSean DiegoandDeborah Lippsaid.This movie seems to be going out of its way to make the Joker a sympathetic antihero in the most disingenuous of ways.Sometimes a villain is just a villain,and we don't need to know why.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I didn't realize I needed Keri Russel as Catwoman until I read this thread,and now it's all I can think of.

Phoenix is a truly gifted actor,so it will be hard for me to pass this up.At the same time,I have no interest in this character,so I'll probably do what most do - watch it on streaming.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

This seems to be a concept in search of a purpose—a raison d'être,as it were.It also points to the central problem of "origin"stories.I mean,why is it necessary to unpack every comic book (or fairy tale) character?That's not only fan fiction,but a distraction/detraction from the original creator's true intent.

The Joker trailer(s) is very effectively cut,so kudos on that.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Straight people...get away from me!

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Mareko: Yeah,that's the thing.Nolan went with Joker where he did,primarily to complement a hyper-real (probably even absurdly hyper-real) vision of Batman.What's this doing?The trailer implies a formless mash-up of elements of Taxi Driver,The King of Comedy,The Sopranos and Fight Club,but with little to none of the wit or pathos of any of those.Also: I doubt I'm done with Joker,but I think I'm done with the whole "knives and bombs"vision of Joker.This is our fourth straight live-action version of that (Ledger,Monaghan,Leto,Phoenix) and,sorry,if this is the only way live-action people want to do Joker,perhaps it IS time to retire him from live-action and do someone else.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I am so bored by superhero/villain movies.Why bother?

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

MAYBE SO for all the reasons you stated.I'm particularly worried about what Sean Diego said.

YES to angsty Catwoman played by Keri Russell.How do we make that happen?

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

Yes to angsty Keri Russell as Catwoman!Oh we need that film and brush away the Halle Berry trauma

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Peggy,you're a hoot!

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

I find superhero movies very boring and I'm not a big fan of different actors playing the same character in the same stories (remakes).

But i find interesting that an actor does a development of a previously played character in a different context and judging by the trailer is exactly what Joaquin Phoenix does in the film so is a yes for me.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

Now,as for the Keri Russell as Catwoman pitch?Oh,boy.YES.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

YES.It looks amazing,and I am no superhero fan.Phoenix looks great.

I don't think it's particularly fair to draw some of the conclusions which have been drawn in these comments until the film has screened,at least.Different strokes for different folks.Let's hope for now it doesn't go down that murky road!

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLuke

Keri Russell as Catwoman...OH FUCK YEAH!!!!!

After watching this trailer,it is definitely clear that Joaquin is taking that overrated,pretentious wannabe Jared Leto to school.

And Leto is a cunt.Elijah Wood is right,30 Seconds to Mars do fucking suck!

August 30,2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

@Deborah Lipp

A single mom on a bus very much has heighten paranoia on the people surrounding she and her child.She doesn't want her child too worked up.Sit still and quiet till we reach our destination.Much too much as been made of this moment including someone writing that the actress being fat and Black is a continuation of the mammy trope.I'll defend the dramatic realism of the scene.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

No- I really do not want to see this- yes the trailer is well made but seriously NO

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Do we have a link to the actual trailer we are talking about here?

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

I'll pass this one.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterV.

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