Joker movie review

When watching new “Joker” movie by Todd Phillips I was glued to my seat on pins and needles wondering how everything was gonna play out, waiting for the big reveal: “Is Joker Batman’s brother?” 

To me it seemed that everything was eventually building up to this conclusion, but the movie left me with an ambiguous answer.

While you are folowing a story of a lonely, mentally ill
Arthur Fleck, and watching how life consistently beats him down, as he
struggles to hold on his job as a street clown and to take care for his sick mother
Penny, you are wondering who he is. 

As he is trying to get his shit together, one repeating
pattern in the behaviour of his mother tells us that there’s something
important in her obsessive motivation for writing letters to her former
employer Thomas Wayne.  

To her son she says that Thomas would have saved them from poverty, 
if he could just see how they are living, bacause he is “that kind of a man”.   

But the letters are left unanswered, and Arthur nevertheless  still obeys the “whim” of his mother – he keeps sending envelopes addressed to Thomas Wayne and keeps checking their mailbox waiting for the response.

Response never comes, and when in a moment of desperation, Arthur finally reads one of the letters from his mother to Thomas Wayne, he discovers the following sentence: “Your son and I need your help”. 

This is a moment in the movie when you are convinced that Arthur is Bruce Wayne big brother, and you are excited – everything fits together.

 This is the reason why Joker is so insanely obsessed with Batman, he is Batman’s negative, they are of the same blood but raised in different circumstances, one becomes supervillain and other a superhero – there is a deeper connection betwen this two that gives another dose of epicness to their rivalry. 

Much to my disappointment, the movie later seemingly leaves this narrative – after Arthur confronts the man he thinks is his father about an affair with his mother, Thomas tells him the “real” story, that Penny was delusional, they never had a relationship. 

 

This is later supported by evidence.

When Arthur steals Arkham records, he learns that not only his mother was previously committed there, but everything that Thomas is saying was true. New twist is that she adopted him, and that at one point he was taken away from her because she was in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend who at one point left Arthur malnourished, tied to a radiator and beaten so badly he had brain injuries.

This is a part of the movie when it seems that the whole “Joker is Batman’s brother” is abandoned.  As Arthur spirals towards madness, there is one more epic scene that again gives us hope that Joker and Batman could me much more connected than anyone hoped.  Arthur finds an old photograph of his mother, and when he flips it, message “Love your smile, – TW” is written on the back.

 

Perhaps Penny wasn’t making it up.

This photo once again opens a door for a possibility that Thomas Wayne really is Arthur’s father. 

Given how Thomas Wayne is presented in the film, far from the saintly figure, one could easily see him sleeping with a pretty young subordinate, getting her pregnant and then wanting nothing to do with any of it, creating this adoption cover-up story, getting her committed to Arkham and using her abusive relationship against her. 

 

But, you are not sure.

You are left wondering was it all just in Arthur’s head, did he imagine this photo the same as he was imagining his relationship with his neighbor Sophie.

Movies goes for the ambiguity – letting the audience to believe what they want.

Some after watching the movie believe that Arthur is Batman’s brother, others do not. To me, this is the best hommage to Joker character.

There’s only thing that’s consistant about the Joker’s past: Nothing.

“If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice,” Joker himself remarks in Alan Moore’s 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke, and even in “The Dark Knight”, the Joker tells different stories of how he got his scars, thus preserving the cloak of mystery.

This movie continues to preserve this kind of mystery surrounding Joker.

While I was watching the film, I expected that there will be a concrete proof that Joker is Batman’s brother, I even expected that Arthur will be the one who kills Bruce’s parents, but the movie subverted my expectations, but in a good way. 

Although no definitive answers are given, this origin story managed to create strong connection betwen a supervillain and a superhero.

It established that they have a long history, movie gives us a reason why is Joker obsessed with Batman, in his head he is the one being betrayed by the Wayne’s, and in the end we learn that Joker is responsible for creating Batman, as he ends up being indirectly responsible for the murders of Bruce Wayne parents.

Even though the movie was attacked for giving the villain sympathetic backstory, I think that this is a big plus for the movie.

In his masterpiece “War and peace” Tolstoy presents his concept how the responsibility appears greater or less according to our greater or lesser knowledge of the circumstances in which the man was placed whose action is being judged. Indeed, although at the start of the movie we know that Joker is beyond redemption, when seeing his whole life story his responsibility appears smaller to us.

If only the kids didn’t attacked him on the street for no reason, if only a group of drunk rich guys didn’t harass him, perhaps he wouldn’t have become the monster – this is the message the movie tells us, it shows us that Joker is a product of a society.

For those always searching for hidden messages in movies, I would say that the message of the Joker is that we all should show more kindness and compassion. After all, Arthur does not end up killing a midget that was „the only one who was good to him“.

Even though some see the move as a take on class warfare, saying that after mental illness, class conflict is the primary thematic influence, I would say that it is more a critique of world we are living in, the world that of often driven by „eat or be eaten“ philosophy. 

356 thoughts on “Joker movie review: I wanted for Joker to be Batman’s brother

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