October 4th saw the release of this year’s perhaps most anticipated DC Comics film: Joker. Before going to see the film with Mr. Borneman and my sister, I was prepared to be let down. My previous outings to give DC films a first (Man of Steel), second (Batman vs. Superman), third (Suicide Squad), and fourth (Justice League) try had been, in a word, disappointing. This one stuck out to me as somehow different. Perhaps it was the way it won the Golden Lion Award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. Before entering, I remember worrying about whether or not the movie would deliver on the hype it had generated among audiences.

My anxieties, of course, were proven summarily wrong in the most fantastic way possible. This new adaptation is entirely free of the endless franchise-building, fast-quipping Marvel Formula that bogs down much of the superhero film industry. It makes an exciting pace to witness a character-driven comic book film, one not afraid to delve into the darkness of man’s subconscious. Particularly intriguing to me was the emphasis placed on the way that gritty urban life can drive someone already oppressed by mental illness to extreme violence. Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the Joker is spellbinding, horrifying, and delightful to witness. As his character consistently gets beaten down by society, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic, and it is interesting to note how long these feelings are retained.

In terms of cinematography and visuals, this movie perfectly captures the aesthetic to suit this tortured man. Gotham City is portrayed like the gritty New York of the 80s that Martin Scorcese captured in such films as Taxi Driver. Grounding the world of Joker in social unrest and filthiness led to a connection between the story of Joker’s own oppression and a fascinating overarching theme of class struggle. It is a must-see I strongly recommend!

-Jasmine Wheeler ’20

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