Supervillain Joker never had a definitive origin in the comic books. But director and co-writer Todd Phillips improvised one in his standalone film "Joker."
Arthur Fleck, the alter ego of Joker, is played by Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix flexed his acting muscles to a divisive and unapologetic portrayal.
The movie's premise is essentially misanthropic. Dark, brooding and violent allegories champion Joker, mostly with politically incorrect themes.
In "The Dark Knight", Heath Ledger's Joker was a top class criminal who had no motive to stir mayhem. But Phoenix's version of the villain is more about what happens inside the mind of the character.
Todd Phillips addressed hot-button issues like mental health, income disparity and celebrity worship; challenging the audience to discomfort for the whole runtime of 122 minutes.
Gotham's most miserable man
Arthur Fleck, a deadbeat comedian is at odds with life as he is constantly undignified, bullied and alienated. He has a neurological disorder, causing him to laugh uncontrollably when he is nervous. When he bursts into laughter, it almost sounds like crying.
He struggles to become a better comic while working as a party clown. His life circles around his senile mother (Francis Conroy), and a next door neighbor.
Arthur is a big fan of late night show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Nero), and imagines himself performing alongside him. And imagines himself as one of the show's participants. The late night show plays a pivotal role in the outcome of the character.
Expectations, mostly fulfilled
After the abomination of the "Suicide Squad" (no thanks to Jared Leto), Joaquin Phoenix had to surmount unimaginable expectations, and he passed with flying colours.
Previous Joker portrayals were essentially supporting characters, where Batman saves the day by defeating a cartoonish clown. But Phoenix's Joker is lucky. He is a one man show in his film, and quite masterfully.
Unlike Nicholson, Ledger or Leto; Phoenix's Joker did not boast about theatrical criminality. He did not crave attention from a caped crusader to validate himself as a villain. Instead, he relied on homicidal encounters. Phoenix never flinches to pull the trigger or stab someone to death. Simply put, he is infinitely psychotic.
DC movies have been inconsistent, in terms of fan service and box office. But Joker proved to be an exception. Will Joker return? Joaquin Phoenix might just put on a happy face and terrorize the streets of Gotham, again.