Emily J. Sullivan
One of the most highly anticipated films of the year, “Joker,” premiered on the big screen Oct. 4, causing an unprecedented media frenzy over the potential of mass violence the film may inspire.
Show time was 7:10 p.m., I had about 30 minutes to fit in a quick bite and a cocktail before walking next door to the theater.
The television above the bar showed a newscaster with a perfectly coiffed blonde bob speaking into the camera – “Police say there has been chatter on the dark-web about mass-shootings that are being planned for ‘Joker’s’ premiere.”
Ever since the trailer dropped, the media has been losing its marbles over the potentially dangerous content of the film, not because “Joker” merely has violence but because “Joker” is about an isolated white male who is mentally-unstable and emotionally-distraught, turning violent and ultimately inspiring a following of like-minded individuals to do the same.
Our society is scarred and “Joker” seems to hit that nerve.
The theater was not as packed as I had anticipated but I did notice the people who filled the seats. I noticed the man three seats down wearing a puffy jacket and I noticed that a younger man was sitting alone at the end of the aisle.
I kept tabs on each movie-goer throughout the duration of the movie. By the end of the film, I realized that the media frenzy over this film was considerably more scary than the film itself.
For all the outrage and attention the film stirred in the media, and the talking heads shaking their fists at the irresponsibility of such a production, the film was ultimately underwhelming.
The movie was disturbing no doubt, but it was not compelling. It was a stagnant bummer from beginning to end. There were no twists, no turns, no surprises, just a long, flat line from start to finish.
Some viewing experiences are so disturbing you cannot look away, some are so disturbing you have to look away, but this film was disturbing in a way that had no shock value and no emotional recoil. It is not that it was not horrific enough, it is that it was not interesting enough.
“Joker” is a missed opportunity, a film that had a shot at transcending the comic book genre into a culturally relevant film that made a statement, and it totally missed the mark.
Is Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker a hero or a villain? Is his life a comedy or a tragedy? These are the questions the film poses and fails to answer, or “leaves up to interpretation” as a cop-out one might say.
An attempt to depict a man’s mental decline into insanity comes across as a sympathetic portrayal of a man who’s been wronged by the world, becoming a glorious vigilante.
The film is not about incels looking for revenge, as many in the media were convinced, it’s more about all of the different factors that contribute to a man’s violent instability without spending enough time on any one of the factors alone.
There’s a brief bit about losing health care to treat his mental condition, there is a little tad about fascism, there is some reference to an abusive past and then there is, of course, a handful of various bullying scenes.
Each is stacked on top of the other without any real arc or climax.
The most interesting thing about this film is Phoenix, whose stellar performance gives the film an extreme amount of value and intrigue that I do not think it would deserve otherwise.
Despite the media and major news networks warning the public of concerns over mass violence at screenings of “Joker,” audiences were seemingly unfazed.
“Joker’s” debut weekend ticket sales in the U.S. are estimated at $93.5 million, making it the highest grossing October release ever. Globally the film grossed a whopping $234 million for its opening weekend.
Ironically in the real world, rather than inspire mass violence, “Joker” seems to have inspired mass paranoia, something the Joker himself would likely be pleased with.
Thus far, audiences have seen “Joker” and lived to tell the tale.
Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.