Joker: The old battles the new

Free use image from pixabay.
A bobblehead showing Heath Ledger’s Joker. Heath Ledger acted as Joker in the 2005 Dark Knight Trilogy.

SPOILER ALERT: Watch out people who haven’t seen Joker yet, I’m about to spill some tea on one of my new favorite movies. 

The most recent Joker movie is striking my fancy. 

The Joker has quickly risen to be one of my favorite movies of all time. However, after browsing the ever-flowing fountain of knowledge that is Tumblr, I find that some original fans aren’t too happy with how the movie turned out. But they can go cry in their Batman onesies. Their Bat-onesies, if you will. Because they’re living in the past.

Many of those who followed Batman since the 1989 Batman, or since the 2005 Batman Begins trilogy, have tried to compare the past actors playing Joker to the most recent one. But this new one is completely different. 

In the current Joker, Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, who is the man who eventually becomes the Joker. The movie starts with Fleck dressed as a clown, standing on the sidewalk of Gotham City twirling a sign to advertise a business. The viewers also find out later in the movie that Arthur was once a stand-up comedian who was fired for being unfairly accused of assault. 

Fans of the 1989 Batman would probably shudder at the thought of the Joker previously being a stand-up comedian because in the 1989 version, the Joker (played by  Jack Napier) had darker beginnings, committing his first crime of assault with a weapon at 15-years-old. This crime spree only seemed to continue when the Joker made his way into Gotham City, later killing the parents of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman). 

In the new movie, instead of the Joker killing Bruce’s parents, one of the Joker’s “followers” kills them. This caused a bit of a stir in the community of Joker fans when the scene finally came up towards the end of the movie, which I understand. I think it would have been much better for a random thug to kill Bruce’s parents as one did in the original comics rather than someone connected to the Joker. 

In Joker, we were really just meant to see his origin story and learn how he became the Joker.  Then again, Joker’s origin has never been set in stone. 

In Batman Begins, Joker (played by Heath Ledger), never really has the set-in-stone back story.  In this version, the Joker ranges from saying his father abused him and made him look the way he does, to saying it was his abusive girlfriend who did it to him. His origin is never clear in the Dark Knight trilogy. 

As you can see, the origin of the Joker has been a concept tossed around, this way and that. Even his appearance is different than in previous versions. In Joker, Arthur doesn’t have the crooked smile that the 1989 Joker and the Dark Knight Joker had. He, instead, painted a smile on and died his hair green. 

One thing that’s different about Joker is that he has the ability to change the features on his own, which I think is a good choice. Whereas in Batman (1989) the Joker fell into a pit of acid because Batman couldn’t save him in time. The next time the viewer sees him, his hair is wildly green, his skin is pale, and he has a twisted smile plastered to his face. This is also different from the mystique Heath Ledger created with his Joker, which made him a fan favorite to many who followed along with the trilogy. In this version his smile clearly isn’t paint, but rather it is carved in, and the audience never gets to truly see what happened to him. 

Those features were something to give the viewer chills. So, when original fans saw the less intimidating version of Joker, their responses weren’t all that shining. Even though Batman and The Dark Knight trilogy will always hold a special place in my heart, I quite like the new concept of Joker’s appearance being of his own free reign. It shows his development as a character suffering through mental illness. 

Mental illness is covered way more in Joker than it is in previous versions of Batman, and it’s one of the things that I like about the movie. It slowly alludes to the fact that Arthur has three major mental illnesses: depression, general psychopathy and dissociative personality disorder. I thought it was really interesting to have more of a focus on Joker’s mental illness rather than his flat out goofy nature. 

We didn’t see much of Joker’s cruel and highly unusual crimes in Joker either. The audience mostly saw his beginnings in a new and somewhat darker light. I would have liked to see more of his shenanigans, but I suppose that would be another story for another day. 

Overall, I think Joker was a refreshing change from the undertone of goofiness in Batman. I really liked the movie and highly recommend it for fans of our favorite psychopathic clown, or even people that want to enjoy a bit of a thriller. 


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