Earlier this week we ran a piece discussing how comic book films won’t go out of style. This is due in part to the amount of genre’s that comic book films can cover, examples like Logan and Deadpool are easy to pick out as very different from the typical superhero movie. For this article, I want to take a closer look at an upcoming release that I feel is integral in keeping the comic book movie sub-genre fresh and will further the point that these movies can be more than just the typical action movie.
Joker, from director Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, releases on October 4th and looks to be a comic book film unlike any other. The film will follow Arthur Fleck, a down on his luck comedian is tormented by life in Gotham and begins his slow descent into madness eventually becoming the criminal mastermind the Joker. If it weren’t for the fact that we as an audience know who the Joker is in pop culture, this would look like a drama movie as opposed to a comic book film. It’s set to be a dark, chilling, and disturbing character study on a man slowly losing his mind.
The film is taking a closer examination of mental health and the impacts of society on a person. While this isn’t to say that they are making the character of Joker an empathetic person, but more to illustrate what it takes to drive someone to the insanity that a being like the Joker exemplifies. If you’ve ever wondered what someone has to go through to reach the heights of madness that the Joker displays, this film looks to answer that question. We’ll see him as a normal person trying to make his way in the world, but if the trailer is any indication we’re going to see much more than just one bad day on the journey to break his mind. This doesn’t excuse his actions by any means but takes a step towards explaining them.
Joaquin looks like he’s going to be absolutely incredible in the role. He’s a phenomenal actor and he looks like he’s giving his all for this film. Just from the trailer, he looks to nail the naive hopefulness of someone trying to make it in Gotham. He then contrasts this by showing just how broken the city makes him, and how he embraces the careless anarchy that’s become a staple of the Joker. His transformation into the Clown Prince of Crime is going to be something special to see, and his look is stellar.
Aside from the narrative being compelling, and something that could take place in any drama movie regardless of it needing to be a comic book film, the visual direction of the movie looks to be spectacular. The cinematography is gorgeous, with basically every shot in the trailer being worthy of a wallpaper. Joker walking up the stairs in misery and then bounding down them in joy after succumbing to madness is visually striking and narratively genius. These visuals are working in tandem with the story to tell the tale we see on screen.
Having a film that offers something unique in the comic book movie genre is needed, and if Joker is as successful as it has the potential to be then it’ll be a win for everyone. It existing as a film that essentially stands on its own without leaning on what’s normally established in traditional comic book films makes it all the more special. Some audiences need a break from the typical action fare that most comic book movies are, and by mixing up the genre with films like Joker this gives the audience, and even the studios, an example of what can be done and is sometimes needed for this ever popular sub-genre of film.
Joker also has the potential to drive people to the theater who might not traditionally want to see a comic book movie. This will show the studios that taking chances on more unorthodox stories with some of these beloved characters can have a huge pay-off. While the name power of the Joker will be a driving factor in some going to the theater, many will also go just because it looks like an intriguing drama.
With the comic book movie sub-genre becoming increasingly saturated it’s important to get more and more variety to keep audiences invested. Films like Logan and Deadpool have proven that audiences are open and receptive to seeing movies that fit squarely in their own genre (being a dramatic character study and a raunchy comedy) while still existing in the comic book movie landscape. Joker can continue this trend by delivering a worthwhile character study of the most infamous villain in comics. Hopefully, Joker is well received so that it leads to more unique and varying films in the world of comics.