The new Joker film is excellent. More than excellent, it is beloved. The dilemma facing me is that I haven’t read one review which accurately captures precisely why it is so beloved. But I know why. And I can explain it succinctly.
The new Joker film is so beloved because it surreptitiously names the elephant in the room, and consequently it offers the audience freedom to bathe in the joy which accompanies naked hope.
Our “culture” is inundated with the idea that “nurture” has won the nature/nurture debate. But not the Joker folks. Instead of pandering to what’s en vogue, they created the most brilliant safe space imaginable (the bleached white halls of Gotham’s legendary Arkham Asylum) and peppered it with a hysterical clown’s slippery, speedy, and blood-soaked footprints. We find ourselves tickled by how Joker gleefully stays one step ahead of the pursuing wet-nurses. But we aren’t empathizing with Joker’s claims of victim-hood, no. What we’re doing is enjoying the feeling of hope. We are basking in the sunlight which is the hope that his chaotic crimes will finally motivate someone to rise and defeat him and all his kind.
In other words, Joker is so beloved because it finally said what we all feel: It cannot be all nurture. Our blood has to have something to do with it. Joker’s blood must have something to do with his behavior. And Bruce Wayne’s blood, likewise, will have something to do with his behavior, with the reason that he becomes Batman.
One must not forget that Joker is the loser.
I don’t know what the big fuss is about. H8ers gunna hate, I guess. It’s a perfectly good movie. I’d probably say it was “great” but I don’t want to build it up too much. Just go see it.
To critics: That’s enough alone time. I didn’t mean forever. You can go play with your friends again.
So I don’t like admitting that there are ever any parts of anything to do with Batman that I question, but for a long time I had a lingering doubt that the whole “Make the climb…without the rope” theory would work. You know, the idea that only when we are spurred on by the fear of death in all its finality will we truly find the strength to do what needs to be done. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The fear of death does increase jumping distance.
Picture this: H- and I at the pool. Goggles on. We’re in the three-foot deep shallow end. Every four seconds she’s adding the post-script to what I can only describe as an entry into a no-holds-barred splashing contest, “See, Daddy? I can swim?”
I smile and say, “Just about.”
Then she says, “I want to jump in.”
I say, “Go ahead.”
She gets out of the pool and with a decent running start proceeds to jump into this same three-foot deep shallow end of the pool. Her head never does go fully under the water and she says, “Ow.”
I say, “You should tuck your knees up so you don’t just land on your feet.”
She says, “Like a cannon-ball?”
I say, “Yep.” So off she goes for attempt number two.
“Ow. I can’t really do a cannon-ball.”
I say, “Well, then, you should come over to the deeper end and jump in.” She starts shaking her head and I soothe, “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.”
Notwithstanding all the splashing, she actually can stay afloat a while during her attempts to swim in the shallow end. And if I remember right, swimming is like riding a bike. Add these things together, and you will see me a decent bit away from the wall in the hopes that when she jumps in, she may just start swimming to me and more importantly, realize she actually can swim. Ta da.
Instead, I learn that she can jump a helluva lot farther than I ever expected or have seen before as she nearly tackled me in a leap that can only be described as springing from legs attached to a brain that really thought a visit to the pool with her father might be the last event on her earthly journey.
The lesson: Teach kids how to swim before how to read the number four.
I feel equal parts bad and excited for the Justice League movie scheduled for release in 2017. I feel bad because with two Avengers films, three Expendables, and seven Fast and Furious’ the hero-team formula is growing wearisome. I feel excited because by 2017 the filmmakers might be even more motivated to actually make a good team action movie.
My beef with these three film series is that they no longer flow. The respective films aren’t films. They’re like seven or eight, twelve minute scenes glued together and then labeled “movie.” Each character gets a cameo, they have one on screen moment fighting back to back and then the credits roll.
My excitement for the future of team movies–and Justice League in particular–comes from the success of the movie Legends of the Fall. Remember that one? I can still hear my brother’s excited hope-whisper during the final scene. I see no difference between that team-of-heroes movie and these recent ones. There’s Alfred, Tristan, and Samuel, and the dad, Susannah, and One Stab round out the good guys. That’s six essentially main character’s in my book. Obviously Brad Pitt was “the rock they broke themselves against”, but that’s exactly my point. In the three series I’ve mentioned, it was exciting to see the first of each of these movies the because they were new. But on the whole, teams aren’t what movies or, as I’ll argue in a minute, any art is even about.
Avengers One worked decently because it was essentially Ironman on steroids. Number two was not about Ironman. That’s why it isn’t as good. (Not to mention that the “age” of Ultron was hardly long enough to be a “week” let alone an “age” which means that the team behind the movie didn’t even know what their movie was about–fail.) Expendables One was about Stallone. Two and three were not as focused–therefore not as good–as they tried to spread the wealth. And then with the Furious movies, Vin Diesel is cool as shyat, but honestly the Rock can’t stop cookin’ when he’s in a movie. It’s either main good guy or main bad guy for that Übermensch.
This brings us to all art. I like to think about all art the same way. Take Beethoven’s ninth. Everyone knows the simple motif that doesn’t appear until the fourth movement. It is eight notes. The symphony is over an hour long, but boils down to only eight notes. I’d call that motif the “main character”. All the other music makes it seem like there’s a team thing, but there isn’t.
Another example would be Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. For all of the many scenes, the main character is the “divine spark” taking place between God and Adam. (No, it is not an accident that these two masterpieces have the moment of creation at their core.)
Which leads to the only thing there is left to say on the subject. In the forthcoming Justice League movie, there must be a main character. And the main character must be Batman.
I plan on giving it to Glenn of Glenn Hates Books at the end of next week. Please don’t let his review (as awesome as it will be) be the first/only one posted.