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Friday, May 10, 2024 

UK Guardian fawns over Joker movie sequel

The UK Guardian's written a puff piece about the new Joker movie sequel, asking if it can avoid being like any other comics film:
What a strange beast Todd Phillips’ Joker: Folie à Deux, the debut trailer for which was released this week, looks to be. Here we have a comic book movie that is really nothing of the sort, a sequel (and a musical one no less!) to the Oscar-winning character study of Joaquin Phoenix’s clownish and ultimately brutal underdog. This is a man who may or may not have some connection to the Batman comics that gave birth to him, but certainly seems to have a far greater link to the grimy crime films of Martin Scorsese in the late 70s and early 80s.
A musical? I think that's all the more reason not to go, because what the Clown Prince of Crime has only so often meted out in past decades is no singing matter any more than a laughing matter.
The reality is that if Warner’s DC movies hadn’t been in a terrible mess, and if Phoenix hadn’t decided this was the perfect project for him to channel his own inner demons, the project would never have got off the ground. That it did at all is testament to the wonderful, unexpected chaos of the universe, or to give it another word, art.

And still … really? Are we honestly to believe that Phillips can deliver yet another weird and ambitiously left-field character study that barely exists within the comic book movie genre, this time with added romance and a hefty side order of Burt Bacharach and Hal David? Surely at some point this unexpectedly flighty story arc will be wrenched back down by the traditional forces of superhero flick gravity? Arthur Fleck will embark on an evil plan to poison Gotham City’s water supply with psychedelics. Bats will realign around Gotham’s heroic dark knight, as Fleck shifts almost imperceptibly into the shadowy corners of the story.

And yes, I’m aware Bruce Wayne is a mere sprog in this timeline, but the previous movie already set him on the righteous path to superhero-dom following the murder of his parents, so surely it’s only a matter of time before he’s swooping through the streets of Gotham, cleaning up the mess his dad, Thomas, helped to make.

But if this doesn’t happen, and audiences and critics lap up the left-of-centre freakishness all over again? Perhaps the future of superhero flicks isn’t in spandex and far-out space adventures after all. Maybe the next big DC bad should be Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin – they may not destroy Superman with superhuman strength, chlorokinesis or astral projection, but they could confuse the hell out of him with heightened, navel-gazing psychodrama. And never again would we have to sit through a DC movie third-act in which tediously invincible costumed titans battle each other against a fiery, CGI hellscape. Scorsese would absolutely love it.
Say, is that a political allusion there? Well if the columnist believes this new Joker film is great because it takes a political-style viewpoint that's actually become more common of recent, that's dismaying, and it's all the more reason to avoid this film, where romance otherwise doesn't belong. Or, it's not something a wise entertainment consumer wants to see villains specializing in.

The part about Bruce's dad having any responsibility in the crime-ridden mess of Gotham is also bizarre. It may allude to a comics-based retcon of recent, but whether it draws from comics or the screenwriters shoehorned it into the film script, it's only got the effect of making me feel even more discouraged from seeing a movie spotlighting a villain, and it's not what entertainment needs any more than Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Kruger. CGI has become far too consuming of movies, but the idea of taking the time to see villains like the Joker plying their awful trade front and center is much worse. We don't need a movie starring a villain any more than we need tons of ghastly special effects flooding the screen, and if this new movie gathers millions at the box office, it'll be bad news. It'll also be bad news for Batman fans if one of his villains is cherished more than the Masked Manhunter himself.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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