- By Michael Jacobo
- Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.
What’s a comic book movie without a hero? Better yet (or worse, depending on who you ask), what’s a comic book movie with a violent villain as the sympathetic protagonist? On paper it might not sound so bright, but Joker, having its anticipated theatrical release this month, promises to subvert our expectations, even if it means alienating us.
Starring as the clown prince of crime is Joaquin Phoenix in what is his most bold and audacious role yet. Though the film is of course an adaptation of the DC Comics character, the film is not a part of the DC Cinematic Universe, but a stand alone film. Set in the early 1980s, the film, set in Gotham City, puts Phoenix (here named Arthur Fleck) as a failed stand up comedian who puts matters into his own, promising to make the world laugh — in his own twisted, maniacal way. The Gotham City in the film resembles New York City of the era, where punk rock and Son of Sam ruled the city. Although set in 1981, no doubt Joker will have more to say about our society than it does that of its time period.
The film was written by John Silver (8 Mile) and comedy veteran Todd Phillips (Old School, The Hangover), who directed the film. After premiering at the Venice Film Festival, the film was awarded the Golden Lion.
“Joker” hits theaters October 4.