Among all of the films released in 2019, I can’t think of a single one that’s been more talked about than Todd Phillips’ JOKER, and that includes the new Star Wars. In fact, several months after JOKER‘s theatrical bow, new comments, critisisms, and think pieces about Phillips’ gritty, Elseworld’s exploration of Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime continue to domniate entertainment news feeds. I’d make a joke about who’s really having the last laugh with regard to the film’s success, though I believe that a $1.062 billion dollar take at the worldwide box office speaks volumes about the movie’s impact, both in terms or ticket sales as well as the idea that JOKER is among the must-see films of 2019.
It’s with all of the above observations in mind that we get to the heart of today’s article, in which Phillips addresses JOKER’s marketability alogside the media labeling the film as “dangerous.” The following excerpts are taken from a recent Director Roundtable interview conducted by The Hollywood Reporter with filmmakers Noah Baumbach (MARRIAGE STORY), Greta Gerwig (LITTLE WOMEN, LADY BIRD), Martin Scorsese (THE IRISHMAN), Fernando Meirelles (THE TWO POPES), Lulu Wang (THE FAREWELL), and of course, Todd Phillips (JOKER).
When asked about the backlash Martin Scorsese had endured after giving his much-contested opinion about Marvel movies – in which the filmmaker referred to the MCU as the equivilant of a cinematic “theme park” as opposed to “real cinema” – Phillips told THR the following:
“Marty got a lot of heat for [what he said], but I understand it fully. We were struggling to get Joker made, which sounds funny because it exists in the superhero world, but it’s really not one of those movies. We spent a year at Warner Bros., and I saw emails back and forth, literally, where they said, “Does he realize we sell Joker pajamas at Target?” I go, “Didn’t movies come first and pajamas come second? Are the pajamas dictating the movies?”
Phillips then added, “Theme park rides. Pajamas. Slurpee cups. Whatever it is that you are selling off the back of movies, you can’t make your decisions based on that.”
As much as I don’t subscribe to much of what comes out of Phillips’ mouth, I have to admit that I agree with his assessment of certain movies being looked at as money-making machines as opposed to works of art. Too often do we find unnecessary sequels being given the green light when new and original ideas are left to fight tooth and claw for even a limited release in theaters. Sadly, big name studios are always on the lookout for projects with franchise potential, and will almost always back a sure thing as opposed to something that could potentially serve as a spark that lights an even bigger fire.
Later in the interview, THR asked Phillips if he was at all worried that JOKER would incite violence among its viewers. Phillips responded by telling the outlet, “No, because I just didn’t subscribe to that bullshit thing, quite frankly, that was happening in the media, where they just pick a movie every so often and declare it means something that it doesn’t. We had think pieces being written where people proudly wrote, “I haven’t seen the movie. I don’t need to see the movie.”
“I just didn’t subscribe to that bulls– thing, quite frankly, that was happening in the media.” Director Todd Phillips explains why he wasn’t worried about #Joker inciting violence https://t.co/YcOETR5Jfk #THRRoundtable pic.twitter.com/CP3UwsqSHj
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) December 23, 2019
Again, I have to agree with Phillips here. Granted there were reports of a few goofballs who thought it would be funny to disturb the peace by dressing up as the Joker with the intent of causing a mild disturbance, but in the end the film had not served as the trigger for any major acts of violence.
What do you think of Phillips’ take on JOKER as well as the ways in which many superhero films are looked at as “pajama sellers” rather than works of art? Let us know in the comments section below.