Not long after crossing the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, and amidst a spot of sequel confusion, Warner Bros. and JOKER director Todd Phillips have shared a new featurette for the gritty and grounded supervillain drama that takes us into the heart of Arthur’s Gotham City, as well as all the crooked smiles that crowd its busy streets.
In the video, Phillips explains that the disturbing events of JOKER are purposefully set in the past. “In my mind, it was always New York City, 1981. What did that look like, and what did that feel like? It was a very run-down, broken-down city. And that was exciting to us as a place to put this character. We were in the midst of a trash strike, social services are being cut which affects people like Arthur,” Phillips explains about the film’s grime-covered setting.
“What does it feel like to be somebody like that [Arthur] in a world that lacks empathy? And that’s ultimately what the movie’s really about,” Phillips adds.
Shortly after Phillips provides us with a tour of the film’s antagonistic atmosphere, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Arthur Fleck in the film, begins speaking about Phillips’ approach to the material, and how it was his “Branson sense of humor that was really perfect for this movie.” Phoenix then continues, “We were working spontaneously. You really couldn’t figure everything in advance and so you need a director that thinks that way.”
In Todd Phillips‘ JOKER, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a struggling stand-up comedian who is driven insane and becomes the psychopathic criminal mastermind known as the Joker. Joining Phoenix for the criminal-led cautionary tale are Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brian Tyree Henry, Brett Cullen, Bill Camp, and Josh Pals, among others.
Ever since the film’s October debut in theaters, JOKER has remained a subject of much debate for fans of the Clown Prince of Crime and beyond. Whether it’s talk about Phoenix’s haunting and transformative performance or how JOKER could have been a catalyst for real-life violence, there’s no denying that Phillips’ film is the most talked about movie of 2019. Personally, I’d found JOKER to be truly disturbing, in a “hypnotized by the spectacle” sort of way. It’s a visceral, punishing, and ultimately sinister slice of cinema that is bound to unnerve even the most mature of viewers. For those reasons and many more, I give the movie a tip of my hat, and hope that JOKER’s box office performance triggers the Bat-signal for more villain-focused films in the future.