Joker is out in cinemas this week, as indicated by the masses of advertising everywhere. It’s surely to be the biggest film of the year, being a film centred around one of the most iconic comic book characters ever. Played by legendary actor Joaquin Phoenix, the film is already getting tons of positive feedback on the film quality – but the film is not without it’s controversy. Ever so recently, journalists and bloggers have been coming out of the woodwork to disgrace the film – without it even being released yet. This is mostly due to the idea of the Joker being a threat for many. In 2012, during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, 12 people were killed and 70 others were injured by a shooter who allegedly referred himself as the Joker. With this in mind, people are already slamming the new film saying that the violence is extremely bad – and could lead viewers to commit similar acts in real life.
Whilst it is fair to say that the Joker is a controversial character, with actors such as Heath Ledger and his portrayal coming under fire after The Dark Knight in 2012, is it fair to judge a film without seeing it? Absolutely not. In fact, there’s not a lot of violence that has been shown with the promotional material, if any. This has lead to a Twitter war between those bashing the film, and those who are defending the film until they have seen it. This got us talking in the office about this mentality and if we should be skeptical of a film that hasn’t released yet if it could result to negative real world altercations. But with there being so many films out there with heaps of violence in them is it fair to single Joker out?
No film should be judged until it is seen. How can we decide if a film is violent until we have seen it? This is a question being thrown back at critics of the film, and a fair one at that. Would this film have these critiques if the Joker wasn’t attached to it, and it was just an original character instead? Quite possibly – but the name is a big selling point and one that people can pick at. This is sad, due to the fact that having such an iconic and beloved super-villain in your film could result in bad press even before its release. Many would also argue that Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker didn’t get any flack before 2016’s Suicide Squad was released which contained more violence in the trailers for that, than Phoenix’s film. The director Todd Phillips, has defended the film stating that his film shouldn’t be judged like this when there are plenty of other movies that contain even more horrible violence:
“The one that bugs me more is the toxic white male thing when you go, ‘Oh, I just saw John Wick 3,’ He’s a white male who kills 300 people and everybody’s laughing and hooting and hollering. Why does this movie get held to different standards? It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.”
– Todd Phillips
Of course there is the argument that John Wick is a protagonist, not an antagonist, and those he kills are bad guys. But does that make the violence any more acceptable? People can still replicate these acts, and there are so many other violent films that come out year after year and do not get noticed. The John Wick films are famed for their non-stop action and authentic stunts and violence. The praise these movies and the filmmaking get is rightly deserved – but it’s content shouldn’t get a free pass if an unreleased film like Joker isn’t getting one.
However to those who have been effected by ‘Joker’ violence, it is fair to understand the worries some people may have, and how the character of the Joker is a sign to those who are mentally unstable and maybe don’t even need to see the film to commit a violent act, in the case with the Aurora shootings. There is the notion of misinterpreting this movie, since it is from the Joker’s perspective – that you would treat him as a hero, when he is really the bad guy. There is nothing wrong with having a villain as the face of your film as long as what they do is not presented as heroic. But then, it is down to us on how we interpret a film. Warner Bros. made a statement on this:
“Neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
Some argue that WB shouldn’t have pushed this statement out as audiences should know who the Joker is and that he is indeed a villain, being such a beloved character with so many performances of him to recall. Yet, it does set some comfort to those who are worried about the film and the real world implications it could have on audiences. Of course, it is hard to tell whether these concerns are justified until the film releases, and until then this argument is getting even more heated day by day. We will know soon enough. But what do you think? Should we judge films due to their negative connotations even before their release? Or should we treat every film with respect until we have seen the finished product and how people have perceived it? Do let us know, we would love to hear your opinion.