01 September 2019 3980 Views

If You Over-Praise the new JOKER movie, prematurely? Then The JOKE is on YOU! Hahahahahahaha..

by James Murphy


OK, ok, so I am exaggerating. A tad. It MIGHT have been eight MINUTES. But, fact is, people are loving and lauding the new JOKER movie. And great! Fabulous. Anything that makes us all SMILE can only be a good thing, right? Well, no. Not really. I mean, I have not seen the movie and indeed, have zero intention of doing so. I am in no position to judge, review, criticise. And if YOU love /like/appreciate the thing, I genuinely am very happy for you..put on a HAPPY FACE!

But there are limits. There is an element of critical thinking we sometimes fail to deploy in these matters; on one hand deconstructing every myth and rebooting /retelling /ret-conning every origin story. On the other? I fear we are all forgetting the most basic of sceptical intuitions and meta-textual instincts and that is not funny..it’s tragic. Hahahahahaha..Allow me to explain..

Here. We GO!


Dress it up all you want, folks. This JOKER movie plays by the ‘origin story’ motif index. That is a surprisingly formulaic one to play by as a rule /guide book. It’s not actually THAT subversive or original to think..’Hey..know all those GOOD GUY origin stories? Well IMAGINE if we did it..for the BADDIES?!’. Yawn.


I get it. He’s a compelling, complex villain. Or IS he?! Look, the character does not even have a cohesion to it. ‘Joker’ is a one size fits all label for madness and evil’s personification. In comic books. Opposed by a man who dresses like a BAT! Just THINK about that for ONE second. Nobody ‘creates’ a definitive take. Not even the ponderous Nolan. Even Bob Kane /Bill Finger seemed to be operating on a relatively simple premise: playing card clown imagery, subverted into an avatar for evil?

There was a cleverness there, sure. But the same method gave us ‘the Penguin’ (literally, he looks like a Penguin because of a frock coat / hat, at first glance..subsequently he is: snob, gangster, literal half man /half avian elephant man baddie, arms dealer, outcast..you get it). A Penguin movie might have been interesting, I suppose, if only because the character has had far fewer onscreen representation by actors who know they might get an Oscar for their trouble. We had Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito: very different Penguins, 25 years apart.

Contrast with JOKER? Romero..Nicholson..Hamill..Ledger..Leto..and now..Phoenix. I am all joker-ed out, frankly. Is there something REALLY new, here? For me, ‘daring’ would be reverting to the genuinely harmless criminal clown take on Harpo Marx, stealing mud pies on a beach or something like that. But no. This ‘new’ take is ‘deep’, ‘dark’, ‘psychological’. Because that has NEVER been done before, right? And what the world needs, right now..is to feel MISERABLE?! Yawn..#2.

When is a Scorsese Movie..NOT a Scorsese Movie?!


Ok, so am talking in riddles and that’s the wrong Batman nemesis, right? A RIDDLER movie, starring Jim Carrey and directed by Joel Schumacher might actually have been fascinating: a first in cinema, allowing an old director to revisit and reinvent a take on a character that was once deemed too camp..now..made ‘gritty’. But no..that might be vaguely..original? We cannot have that! Originality? No. But ‘gritty’: yeah we can do that. Big time. So we get JOKER being set in a City that is on the verge of collapse. A garbage / rubbish strike is on! Rats infest the streets! Crime is everywhere! People behave BADLY!

It’s ALMOST like one of those..GROWN UP movies they USED to make in the 70s and 80s! YES! Eureka..let’s merge King of Comedy to Taxi Driver and even give Robert DeNiro a cameo. How clever and funny. Heck: why not weave in the notion of this basically being just LIKE a Scorsese film and market that, accordingly? Generate instant artistic credibility, even Oscar buzz for our leading man. All fine. Except that the ACTUAL Scorsese can no longer get his visions funded so easily; THE IRISHMAN went to Netflix as last resort (possibly because only streaming will accommodate a 3.5 hr running time..but even so..).

However much you dress things up, JOKER is STILL tribute cinema to a superior age / directorship and propped up by the VERY marketing /IP associations that have made the ‘comic book movie’ front and centre of film-making at the EXPENSE of, rather than to the advantage of, ‘auteur’ school thinking and vision.

Pretentious, pseudo-erudite, hubristic Marvel at one extreme (‘yeah we had to kill Stark coz…’: um,. no..you didn’t..and it did not need to be THREE HOURS LONG, either). And now ‘experimental’ and ‘edgy’ DC/Warners, the other extreme: guys, you stuffed up shared universe Marvel cloning..now Marvel makes more serious movies itself and you are therefore not breaking trends..you are yet again..following.

Now, as stated previously: I cannot condemn a movie I have not /will not see. JOKER might well be, excellent and I AM genuinely happy about that. Just don’t expect me to be brainwashed though into lauding something as being of Scorsese standard when in fact we have all been TOLD to think that, in advance, on account of certain, pointed, contrived, and yet ultimately superficial similarities. The bar on a great movie has dropped very low indeed; it’s down to you, as viewers to demand better, by refusing an on message, pre-packaged comparison to innovative film visions from more creative and literate eras.

Mental Health is not a Laughing Matter…or IS it?! Hahahahahahah..

We are ALL now aware of mental health issues, right? Princes William AND Harry: big time supporters. Many a celeb from A-Z list has confessed to their ‘struggle’ (and thereby boosted awareness..and their..um..profile) with anxiety. It’s the new rock and roll! It’s ‘ok’ to suffer anxiety, depression, the works! Parents and now TEACHERS will have to go LOOKING for it among impressionable kids in UK Schools?! I exaggerate a tad. Or do I?! Point is, it is indeed constructive, pastoral, inclusive and genuinely helpful that our zeitgeist now moves to embrace a constructive discussion of our well-being. I like that.

There is an equal and opposite reaction /danger, though. The increased emphases on the diagnosis of angst and the like as portal to actual mental ‘illness’ could, in theory, be used as sword as much as shield. We are always on that knife edge between an accepted integration and a mobilised fear, harnessed by those who seek to label the people with whom they simply disagree or where a face does not fit. Just look at the point dear Greta made the other day: those who label us, sometimes seek to do so to help but equally, because they know they have lost!

My point is: what is THEIR point in JOKER? Because mental illness SEEMS to be a theme here. All set to the (overused) ‘Smile’ motif. Now, were it a clear send up OF the culture today that mistakenly embraces Big Brother invasion in the name of pastoral concern, then that WOULD be brave /subversive/clever/compelling to me. Yet this is a film set in 1970, that CLEARLY riffs on the imagery and potential of future interactions with properties we KNOW to be Batman oriented, whilst depriving us of an actual Batman cameo/connection?! So it’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest but with a comic book title? Great! Kids will LOVE that, right? Nooooooooooo…..


….No doubt the movie will be praised to the heavens for ‘boosting awareness’? Possibly by the same brand of social media activist that loves our new mental health crusades. And that’s endearingly optimistic and naive. It’s also..wrong. At BEST, this movie looks to be revisiting, needlessly, the pain of a time when society was less caring.

At worst though, it is trivialising something very serious and without any true purpose beyond macabre entertainment. The victim in society; the mentally ill person..becomes a nasty little villainous killer. 





THIS MOVIE PROMOTES PREJUDICE AGAINST CLOWNS! That is no laughing matter! Hahahahaha. But then, so does IT, CHAPTER 2. Pennywise, the DANCING CLOWN. And yes, I WILL be seeing THAT film. ‘Coz it looks like scary but actually thrilling FUN in a manner that JOKER could/should be but, to me, just ..isn’t?

I would even prefer CLOWNADO!

  • But hey, if you love JOKER, GREAT!
  • If  Joaquin Phoenix wins an Oscar for playing the lead: fabulous (despite fact that he could play this in his sleep and has a catalogue of great work stretching back over 20 years).
  • And I’m genuinely interested to hear what you THINK of the film. Yes..THINK. what YOU think..NOT what you have been TOLD to think from day one, by cleverly suggestive marketing.


I’m off now..to put on a HAPPY FACE! 😉 





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