Why Joaquin Phoenix Will Be a Great Joker in a Misguided Film

As the trailer for the upcoming Joker movie – starring Joaquin Phoenix as Batman’s most infamous foe – soars across the internet, fans see glimpses of the character’s backstory. Viewers bear witness to some of the life incidents, lessons, and turmoil that lead to his heinous ways.

Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix | Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

As a pre-Joker Arthur narrates, “my mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face,” viewers immediately become aware that this film will be a revelatory exposé, and work to break down Joker’s lack of motivation running rampant in most Batman narratives, as well as the underlying cause of evil that’s frequently amiss.

Why Joaquin Phoenix is meant to play the Joker

No one is questioning whether Joaquin Phoenix is a good candidate for the role. The three-time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner has proved his ability to encompass characters across a wide range of dispositions.

From playing Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, which earned him his Golden Globe win for Best Actor, to starring in 2012’s The Master as an alcoholic drifter struggling with the trauma of World War II, Phoenix is a versatile performer with a particular knack for the unsettling expression. Seeing the Joker’s stomach-turning smile cross Phoenix’s face will be movie magic; for that matter, it already is in the trailer.

Similar to the Joker, Phoenix has proved that he also can be a bit of a wildcard (pun intended), as he once announced that he would quit acting in favor of pursuing a career in rap music. When it comes to the movie’s jokes that others will fail to find light-hearted or amusing, Phoenix will find himself at home.

Integral to the Joker is the ability to embody an evil character with a darkly comic funny bone. From his work in Her and Gladiator, Phoenix should have no trouble combining his comedic prowess with his more evil edge. However, while Phoenix will excel in the movie, the question is: should the first movie in a series of DC movies (separate from the DC Extended Universe) even be made?

Why ‘Joker’ may be a misguided film

Devising an origin story for the Joker – using The Killing Joke for source material – will take away the mystery that many believe is inherent to the character’s appeal.

In most DC movies, the character’s motivation is amiss, and his innate sense of evil seems utterly unfounded. While this may seem purposeless, it adds to the character’s awe, as he becomes an unhinged man with no established basis for a loss of sanity.

The Joker strives to remind the public that justice is not easily accessible, as if accepting a heinous life agenda for an undisputably warped sense of what he perceives to be the “greater good. If you make him damaged, he fails to remain demented. He loses his connection to the deranged demeanor that is augmented by the viewer’s lack of understanding, and therefore, integral to the character’s fundamental nature.

Taking the failed comedian approach – the one who was beaten, bullied and tormented – will create pity around the character. He will cease to be the iconic Joker, and become another character “turned evil.” He will become another bad guy who could have been good had he…You know the rest. Joker’s greatest asset as a character lies in his inherent enigma. You remove the mystery; you remove the magic.