Despite a staunch performance by a gaunt Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker” is an origin story that is all bark and no bite.
While the Joker character does not exactly scream subtlety, the Todd Phillips directed film tries much too hard to instill fear into the audience. Instead of letting the audience discover that Arthur Flex, also known as Joker (Phoenix) was crazy and unhinged in their own time, the film slapped them across the face with it and forced it down their throats.
And the film failed to offer anything substantial beyond the ever so marketable revenge plot. The film was about a crazy man that grew even crazier and took his wrath out on the people who wronged him, all while living in a crazy world.
“Joker” does not have the substance to make it an interesting origin story. At best, it would have made for an interesting and short flashback in a Batman movie.
The reason it does not work on its own was the lack of friction. Nobody challenged Joker when he started to become a powerful vigilante, and no end was ever in sight.
As a stand-alone film, the story felt pointless. Everything was jam-packed into a two-hour movie, but it felt like nothing had happened at all.
In this bore of a film, Phoenix tried his best to remain engaging, but he was anything but magnetic. It is not his fault though, because how many times can a single character be reimagined when they have to fit inside a tiny, generic box of what it means to be crazy?
Other than the story itself, Todd Phillips’ direction might have been the worst part of the film, though. It was unclear what kind of tone he was trying to set but whatever it was, he missed the mark by a million miles.
Phillips’ direction came across as indecisive and uneven because the takeaway of the film was unclear. If he was trying to convey a message about humanity, it was unclear what that message was.
The last thing this world needed was a movie about a “crazy” white man who finally snapped because he was treated unfairly.
A movie does not need a happy ending, but it does need some sort of redeeming quality about them and this movie had none of that.
“Joker” was a hollow misfire that said absolutely nothing.