If anyone asks who Batman’s arch-enemy is amongst his 80-year rogues’ gallery you would be hard-pressed to find anyone whose first answer was not the Joker. With the last decade of superhero and comic book films making big at the box office is there room for a standalone film based on the Clown Prince of Crime.
The colourful clown has been a consistent polar opposite to Batman in every way – where Batman is dark the Joker is colourful and bright. Where Batman is serious the Joker is very much not. Where the Batman does not kill, the Joker is a sociopath and mass murderer for his own amusement (he once beat the 2nd Robin to death with a crowbar after all).
First appearing in Batman #1 in 1940, two years after Batman himself hit print, the Joker has a long and confusing history. In Tim Burton’s Batman, the Joker was a mob hitman while in The Killing Joke he was a failed comedian, even in the most recent DC there is a suggestion of there actually being 3 different Jokers. But for the Joker this variation in his history is not considered retconning but rather a comment on the damaged mental state of the character who confuses and changes his own history.
Which brings us to the latest film to hit the box office – Joker.
Based on the DC Character and set in Gotham of the 80s this film exists outside the known established DCEU (it doesn’t even have the fancy DC opening credits). Not acting as a prequel to Synder Superman/Batman/Justice League Films and not connected to Aquaman or Shazam (or even Suicide Squad) this is a standalone film that exists outside the shared universe continuity as a sort of ‘Elseworlds’ in film.
Following Arthur Fleck, an aspiring stand-up comedian and part-time ‘Party Clown’ Joker is Arthur slow but definite descent into madness. Taking you on the journey with Arthur you quickly learn that he is not well, previously committed to a psychiatric facility and living with his mentally ill mother this is a story that puts Arthur as someone in serious need of mental help in a city where mental health facilities have been cut in already not the nicest city to live in, Gotham.
Playing out like American Psycho but with the Joker this is not a Batman film. Sure it takes some elements from the Bat-verse being set in Gotham and even having Thomas Wayne being fairly important to the overall story but this is all about the Joker and his breaks from reality building to a point where you are reminded that regardless of every game, cartoon and comic – If the Joker is the polar opposite of the Batman who is the pinnacle of human good then the Joker is the closest thing to pure Evil.
So should you go see it? That.. is a tough call. While even the most hardcore Bat fanatic might want to check out everything related to the Dark Knight this is a standalone Joker story. There is no redemption arc here, no happy ending, this is just the fall. If you are looking for the DC version of Making a Supervilian Mass Murderer this will definitely hit that spot but you probably will need a healthy dose of /r/aww afterwards to recover.
Joker is in Australian Cinemas right now