Why ‘Joker’ Fans Shouldn’t Worry About the Movie So Much

Actor Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix portrays The Joker in the upcoming film. | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The idea of going against comic book canon for a popular comic book character might sound like sacrilege to those who think this is one rule that should never be broken. Breaking rules and still surprising people is already being done, though, and we usually discover going against convention is almost always worth the creative risk. Such is the case with Joker (starring Joaquin Phoenix), a very anti-comic book film that’s in the new Dark DC production arm.

Writer and director of Joker, Todd Phillips, recently made a good point about comic books that opens the doors to this movie going beyond what’s written in stone. Having it happen with one of America’s most daring actors will probably set a precedent for more off-the-grid comic book movies.

Or will we ultimately say DC comic book fans doth protest too much?

Todd Phillips compared comic books to Shakespeare with multiple interpretations

Maybe Shakespeare scholars will bristle to hear an A-list movie director calling comic books our modern-day Shakespearean works. Then again, you can get the gist of what Todd Phillips is trying to say in a recent L.A. Times interview. Phillips makes some interesting comments regarding the reinvention of Joker and how his version might create a chain reaction.

One of the most notable things he said is fans of The Joker shouldn’t feel upset if they don’t like this take. Most likely, he says, the reinventions will go on for years, whether Phillips or Phoenix are involved or not.

This makes us wonder whether this version of The Joker will be so compelling, no one else will want to tread on the character for a long time. Then again, everyone thought this back when Jack Nicholson played The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman movie from 30 years ago.

If anything, Joker will make this notorious villain more “human,” despite some feeling like it plays up the loner white man angst we’re seeing a little too much of in our real world.

Showing the more human side of superhero villains

It’s arguably tougher to bring more human qualities to superheroes with superhuman powers. We’ve seen it successfully done, however, if you include everyone from Superman to Captain Marvel.

The Joker is a villain with absolutely no superpowers and just a madman mind able to concoct the worst possible chaos. In this movie, that seems a long way away to the Joker we saw with Heath Ledger.

What makes this current film so off-the-wall is it draws from three different Martin Scorsese movies. Scorsese was even attached as producer at one time, yet pulled out due to commitment to other projects. Whether we can find the same type of connection to Arthur Fleck as we did to Scorsese’s Travis Bickle, Jake LaMotta, and Rupert Pupkin (from Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and King of Comedy, respectively) is open to early interpretation.

Based on the trailer, the footage available is mesmerizing and chilling if you can turn off the prospect of copycats watching the film while you sit in your local theater.

Maybe The Joker can’t be human without bringing painful truths about society

For decades, we’ve seen nothing but a cartoonish version of The Joker, something you can argue still existed a little in Ledger’s performance. Seeing Fleck’s background and his rejection from wanting to be a comedian takes things to the most base level of the human soul, especially many men in America who can’t seem to handle rejection with the proper frame of mind.

Phoenix is obviously going to tap into the darkest and most reflective look at a segment of our society we initially thought was just a minority. For comic book fans, that might take away from the initial comic book code of letting us fill in the blanks sometimes with the villains.

An argument of mystery for the most debauched DC villains might end up being the better fit to give more credence to the violence Dark DC will be focusing on.