By Jessica Wettig

I didn’t necessarily plan on seeing Joker in theatres this weekend. DC movies aren’t always on the top of our list (My fiancé is a Marvel fan), but the strong response, and the legendary actor, made us all too curious.

For those who don’t know, the new movie about the famous Batman franchise villain stars none other than Joaquin Phoenix. And this isn’t a Batman adventure, or a Suicide Squad sequel. This, my friends, is an origin story.

Upon first seeing the previews, we thought that Phoenix looked a bit old for the role. However, it turns out he simply looks unhealthy. Phoenix lost over 50 pounds for the role–and he wasn’t exactly fat before.

The weight loss is not a secret in the movie, either, as Phoenix has several scenes topless, and stretched out to the point where we can see his ribcage.

The movie, as a hole, is a tale of mental illness slipping and slipping. Much of it may be the result of his mother’s illness, since we do learn she was institutionalized and even abused him as a child.

In the beginning of the movie, Arthur Fleck (who becomes the joker) is a party clown who isn’t exactly sane. He has a condition where he laughs uncontrollably, and he is essentially a bit odd. It also becomes clear that he suffers from severe depression, and experiences some forms of psychosis.

The biggest message that the story seems to be telling us is that the Joker was not born, but made.

He has a tendency to get abused. He loses his job, and is the target for a lot of violent acts since, for one, he’s dressed as a clown a lot. He also is odd, and society isn’t usually a fan of such things.

Since a friend of his gives him a gun after he got jumped the first time, this opens the door for him using it against the next person who does the same thing to him. So that’s exactly what happens.

And it escalates.

Somehow, he ends up on the Murray Taylor show (who is played by Robert De Niro). Now, Taylor is kind of the Johnny Carson of the time. This is during the 1980s, and Fleck is pursuing a career in standup comedy. Taylor aired one of his clips on the show previously, kind of making fun of it.

But, it got him his dream come true. This is a long, tension-filled scene, where Fleck basically tells Taylor that society turned him into a nutcase, and then the predictable, and what seems all–too–inevitable happens: He blows Taylor’s brains out on live television.

From this, it looks like he has become an icon for riots and protests in Gotham. Right at the time where he has officially gone insane.

Some have called this an example of what happens when mental illness goes untreated, or when they lose treatment (which happens to Fleck when the program he is in cuts their funding).

For one, with all the gun controversy, I think the network had some balls releasing this movie. It also creates huge controversy for mental illness in general. It might even make us ask hard questions about people who commit crimes for extreme reasons, like mass shootings.

But, all-in-all, this is not your typical comic book movie. Don’t go in thinking that. It’s kind of like when everyone took their kids to see Deadpool without doing their research–except that movie was funny…if you like that kind of thing.

This movie is a dark, haunting story about one man’s godawful life, mental illness, and how he eventually lost his mind and became the villain we know of as Joker.

But, it’s not a horror movie. So, when you read the reviews on how dark it is–it’s just because people’s expectations were obliterated to the point they could no longer stomach their popcorn.

I look forward to what DC has coming next.

 

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