We sit down some more with Patrick Johnson to share our mixed feelings about Todd Phillips’ bleak and controversial Joker film.
We dig a bit into the film’s strong lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix and its very on-its-sleeve cinematic inspirations from films like Taxi Driver, Death Wish and the King of Comedy, and try to figure out whether it actually works or not. Does it transcend both its pastiche elements and its comic book origins, or is it a well-made and ambitious mess?
The answer is…complicated.
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Haven’t seen this, but I liked the discussion anyway and found it very informative (and, as usual, entertaining). In that regard, I think I want to see this movie even less now than I did before I listened to the show.
By the way, I’m not sure I totally agree with your assessment of Batman: Year 1, i.e., that that’s as far toward the realistic end of the spectrum you can go without breaking the concept. While it’s a good story on it’s own, I think it does pass the breaking point, so that I don’t even think of it as a canonical Batman story (it’s focus is more on Jim Gordon anyway). So it’s odd to me that it became the new, post-COIE canonical origin story. To me – and I realize I’m showing my age here – the Batman canon was laid down by Len Wein in the Untold Legend of Batman back in 1980.
There is one thing that Batman Stories Can/Should never be and that is “Realistic.” When you try to bring in such elements into the story then suddenly several things start to fall apart, Example: Batman And Joker cannot survive all the things we see in the stories they’re in. We have seen a lot of things happen to them over the years and they go too far beyond what real-world logic can account for. (and let’s not even Get into how unrealistic his Rogues’ gallery is.) This means that these stories cannot be true. many DC stories (Moden day DC Especially) is trying to make their stories “realistic,” and that never works out. Their Heroes aren’t meant to be realistic, they are meant to be inspirational figures you usually find in Kids stories and when you Drag such figures into a world they don’t belong in, you start to realize that they are just silly concepts that can work in their own universe, and especially this is a fact here, this movie doesn’t belong in the DC universe, but that means that all the ideas they pull FROM the DC universe and the ideas that they try to put in to make it “realistic” slam into each other instead of blending naturally. I’m not saying that you can’t do this sort of story, obviously, but why call it something it isn’t? call it something else, because it is sure as hell is not The Joker
I don’t think it matters who Thomas Wayne was, unless you’re wanting to tell a Thomas Wayne story. An orphan with lots of money, raised by Alfred, that’s who Bruce is.
Maybe Bruce is a better person than his dad. And obviously, there are societal, political problems in Gotham that aren’t being solved by Batman. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell a Batman story.
How the Joker came to be doesn’t matter that much, either. His actions in each story matter. If it takes a Batman to take him down, then that’s what you do. If you want to fix society, you need more than just Batman.