Now, Where Were We? (Or: Crazy Times, Indeed)

Hi there. So, where were we again? Oh, right. Some big things are cooking on the legal/financial front, so that’s been taking up a chunk of time (boo!). Nevertheless, I can’t say much after that other than I dislike having to do so much stuff nearly every day to get a relative what’s legally due because the process intentionally convoluted and some things needn’t be so damn irritating, but here we are.

Uh, subject change? Movies? Sure, okay.

(Thanks, Warner Bros Pictures!)

I saw JOKER a few times and the Birds of Prey flick twice last year. Both are quite interesting takes on characters with different complex mental challenges as unreliable narrators and yes, one comes off as far darker than the other with the latter film having a much higher body count while the former is pretty bleak on every front with initially a lower body count, but a longer damage reach. The main differences between the two being the direction and how the victims are treated. Birds of Prey has plenty of bad folks who get what’s coming to them and it’s presented as comically as possible though some energetically portrayed violence. But you also see a few innocents dispatched by villains who are somewhat worse than the main character. As the kids say, props to the main villains here for being so phenomenally twisted.

(Thanks, Warner Bros Pictures!)

On the other hand, JOKER is in a way, much like Harley’s loopy tale, but a lot less “fun” to watch. It also goes rather intentionally all over the map, but Arthur Fleck’s story along with its more realistic violent content reflects the reactions its main character has to his internal demons and not all of the victims here deserve what they get. The violence is more shocking and in a few cases, unexpected, especially a brutal scene later on where you get a sudden victim and a surprise survivor. In both films, the actors playing the leads do some fine work overall, although I have to give the edge to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance (I’m not into awards shows, but that Oscar win was well-deserved).

My criticisms on both films are oddball ones, but I’ll note them anyway. In Birds of Prey, the film falls victim to the ‘one and done’ movie villain concept where you get the main evildoers wiped out completely by the film’s end when peeking at the comics often reveals a baddie’s arc usually goes on for a stretch. Ewan McGregor as Black Mask and Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz might have made pretty good recurring appearances as their characters had there been a follow-up film. But of course, such a thing gets problematic if an actor declines a second opportunity at a role or decides not to reprise a part. Granted, actors get replaced in roles all the time (and yes, modern comic-based films are disposable in a few ways), so one can safely same some roles are interchangeable as actors come and go (quick, how many people playing Batman were in all those films?).

With JOKER, I really liked that it’s pretty much an Elseworlds flick (like much of DC/Warner’s unconnected films) and sure, one can also state that everyone who’s ever played the character in film has clearly made him their own. Yes, like the many Batman film variants out there, it’s not going to have any sort of true consistency if you try to stitch together a coherent plot with them all. I watched the film with an eye only on the performances and found them for the most part, solid. I thought the angry version of the Thomas Wayne character was too much of a world away from the original version, but that was more of a one-note, one-shot (literally) character and yes, this flick isn’t what I would call canonical.

But, it works for what it is and I won’t fall into the trap of gabbing how it portrays Fleck’s negative mental state, as he’s not real and one shouldn’t role model his behavior. That said, the film’s very Taxi Driver meets King of Comedy approach had me popping both those flicks into the player afterwards and getting a grin of my own going because director Todd Phillips had more or less made a decent blend of both films. Yes, it’s not for everyone, but it’s memorable where it counts and although it’s on the grim side, for me it works and for what it’s worth, works despite the fact that it may be seen as some as just ‘a comic book movie’.

– GW


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