There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the release of Joker. The film managed to nab the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which set high expectations for fans of Gotham City's greatest villain. But it seems like viewers are ultimately divided when it comes to the movie.
Some are worried that it sends the "wrong" message, so wrong that the FBI should be worried; others just think it's uninspired. Regardless of what the critics think, however, Joker's enjoying a good enough box office boom that a sequel probably isn't out of the question.
Fans of the movie praised Phillips' bold vision and Joaquin Phoenix's brilliant performance, something even the movie's greatest detractors gave credit to. The biggest gripe, and a recurring critique of the movie, is that Phillips seems to be confused with his message. Is the Joker an anti-hero? Is he justified in his violence? Does his mental illness excuse him from his heinous acts? Is society to blame for his violent outbursts?
There's also been a lot of talk about the film being a combination of The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, but just watered down versions of those films set in the DC universe. It seems like a recurring gripe is that Phillips has made the main character sympathetic in the first half of the movie.
(The following contains Joker spoilers, so beware!)
However, after Arthur's "transformation" into the Joker occurs after murdering some finance-bro bullies, that's where the trouble begins.
Unlike Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, the two characters that DeNiro plays, Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin, aren't sympathetic — one's got serious anger issues and channels it into murdering a bunch of pimps in a whorehouse, and Rupert Pupkin is a horribly deluded individual who's obsessed with becoming famous.
The fact that Arthur Fleck does have legitimate issues, however, in a city that seems to be filled with absolutely terrible people who could care less about him, is another gripe people have with the movie.
"It's just too bleak." Seems to be the recurring theme. It also doesn't help matters that Todd Phillips has been castigated as of late for saying that he quit making comedies because "Woke Culture" destroyed them. Taika Waititi, whose upcoming film, Jojo Rabbit is no stranger to controversy itself, didn't seem to agree with Phillips' sentiments too much, and recently commented on the idea that "Wokeness" is responsible for the decline in comedy films.
While there are plenty who don't agree with Phillips' statement, or agree that, yes, a certain kind of comedy is being killed by "woke culture" that deserves to be killed, (like a short order cook rubbing someone's french toast on their butt and genitals in Road Trip) there are other reviewers who don't seem that concerned with Phillips' commentary on the stage of comedy, but that the film itself feels like a dark and troubled beginning to something more.
So will Joker get a sequel?
Writer for Esquire, Matt Miller, said that without a sequel, Joker just presents viewers with "a miserable chaotic world parallel to our own with no protagonist, no hope, and nothing to really say," and that even though he's grown tired of superhero flicks, he's begging for one in this instance because Phillips has presented us with a world that is desperately calling out for a hero.
There's a problem with this hope, however. Phillips has already stated that Joaquin Phoenix's Joker will have nothing to do with Robert Pattinson's upcoming portrayal as Batman. The director has gone on to say that this is definitely not the last anyone has seen of the character, and that there will be many other Jokers out there. Could it be that "Joker" is more of a social movement and not a specific individual?
Could it be that Arthur influences a group of psychos to become like the "Jokerz" gang in Batman Beyond? Despite its strong worldwide $234 million opening, (Joker gave great returns on its $55 million production budget) it's hard to imagine that Joaquin Phoenix will reprise the role, or that there will be a direct sequel to the movie. But then again, both Joaquin and Todd did have an amazing working relationship during filming.
Joaquin said that he never really felt comfortable during filming, which he believes helped his performance — that "scariness" made the whole experience that much more rewarding for the Oscar-nominated actor. So maybe the two can work together and see if they can test the prospect of hope in Gotham, by introducing Batman, this time, under the cape and mask?