Joker: An unenlightening approach to serious problems

Joker: WSWS

...it must be said that the filmmakers here have fallen short of a genuine examination of the social crisis in the U.S.

World Socialist Website - October 9, 2019

"... Rather than attempting to make sense of the social questions he raises, he is content to wallow in a muck of violence, misanthropy, armchair psychology, and contrived “darkness.”

A number of critics have noted the debt that Joker owes to the films of director Martin Scorsese, chiefly Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and the aforementioned The King of Comedy***, which all clearly had an influence on the style and structure of Phillips’s film. But while Phillips may have turned to Scorsese’s works for their genuinely disturbing qualities or the (muddled and limited) social criticism they contain, he has ended up importing many of Scorsese’s weaknesses into his own film, especially with regards to*** Joker ’s unfocused and meandering narrative, its dramatic implausibility, and its unconcealed disgust with all of humanity."

Joker is the latest film from director Todd Phillips. It tells the “origin story” of the well-known villain from the Batman comics and films.

The film has received a great deal of attention in the press. Critical reception has been polarized, with some critics effusively praising the film while others denounce it as “dangerous,” with some even going so far as to call for its censorship (more on this later). The film’s premiere at the Venice International Film Festival was awarded the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize. Meanwhile, the film’s graphic depiction of antisocial violence has led to media speculation that it would inspire mass shooters. Audiences who attended a showing this past weekend were greeted with tightened security or even police presence in theaters.

To be sure, Joker tries very hard to distance itself from the sort of big-budget comic book films that have glutted theaters in recent years. The film’s grim atmosphere, its relative lack of cartoonish computer-generated spectacle, and its references to a number of very real and pressing social problems all point to an attempt on the part of the filmmakers to say something serious about the real world.

Nevertheless, it must be said that the filmmakers here have fallen short of a genuine examination of the social crisis in the United States. When one strips away Joker ’s pseudo-artistic pretensions, one is ultimately left with a deeply confused work that is more a symptom of a rotten social order than a coherent commentary on it. ...
Read full review at World Socialist Website

Comments