Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker hailed as a masterpiece: “Funny, dark, beautiful and full of rage”

Could this superhero spin-off really be an Oscar contender?

Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker (Warner Bros)

The first reviews for Todd Phillips’ Joker have begun to roll in after the film debuted at The Venice Film Festival, and they are very, very positive.

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Critics have praised Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, the film’s dark tone and compared the film to two Martin Scorsese classics: Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy (which shares a star with Joker in Robert De Niro). The premiere received an 8-minute long standing ovation after the credits rolled.

Empire editor Terri White said that Phillips’ film “reimagined the comic book movie itself in her five star review.

“Phoenix is astonishing,” White wrote. “Phillips has said he had a picture of the actor above his screen when writing the script and it’s a belief that has paid off. Phoenix inhabits Arthur: having lost weight for the role, he looks thin, frail, hungry. Shadows carve out his exposed bones. His physicality is precise — the way he moves, shuffles, runs, sits, smokes, shrinks.”

She concluded: “Bold, devastating and utterly beautiful, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix have not just reimagined one of the most iconic villains in cinema history, but reimagined the comic book movie itself.”

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said that Phillips creates a “dazzlingly disturbed psycho morality play”.

“As the story of a putz trying to succeed as a stand-up comedian, it evokes Scorsese and De Niro’s satirical riff on Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy,” he wrote. “There are also elements lifted from Death Wish, Network, V for Vendetta, The Empire Strikes Back, The Shining and The Purge.”

The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin compared it to Fight Club for its potential to “stir up trouble – in the consciences of everyone who watches it, and almost certainly in the outside world as well.”

“For anyone with an eye on the news, Arthur is a horribly familiar case study: quiet, bullied, overlooked, loves his mum, keeps himself to himself, then writes his manifesto and takes his grievances murderously viral. And artistic intentions aside, there is something inescapably and chillingly glamorous in watching Arthur’s Joker persona emerge, like a poison-striped parasite devouring its host.”

And over on Twitter, the praise was also glowing.

“I can’t believe quite how good Joker is,” James Jones wrote. “It’s a masterpiece. Funny, dark, beautiful, full of rage, and really fucking cool. Joaquin Phoenix is masterful and every shot is sublime.”

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Joker will be released on 4th October 2019