After premiering at the Venice Film Festival, “JOKER” reactions are no laughing matter

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Photo Credit: Raquel Higine | Daily Texan Staff

Unlike the character, this film is no joke.

On Aug. 31, Todd Phillips’ “Joker” film premiered at the 2019 Venice Film Festival where it won the “Golden Lion” award. Critics were quick to release their first impressions and reviews, most of which were overwhelmingly positive. Despite the initial high praise, a much deeper discussion shortly surfaced.

Critics and industry professionals voiced their concerns on how the film’s focus on a malevolent and violent individual might affect the modern political climate. Others fired back in defense of the film, claiming the statements and speculations were overexaggerated. Despite the violent past of the character, fans on Twitter have still expressed concern over Joaquin Phoenix’s new and menacing interpretation of the clown prince of crime.

Ileana Meléndez, head of marketing at Full Circle, said exploring the Joker’s history as a comic book villain is essential to understanding the kind of character that he is.

“You have to remember who this character is and where this character is from,” Meléndez said. “There is an entire library of source material that you can refer to before judging this movie before it comes out.”

Many fans and critics have considered the potential impact of featuring villainous characters as heroes and protagonists on screen. Natalie Lee, radio-television-film sophomore, said people shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss these interpretations as “edgy entertainment” that come without societal consequences.

“People try to pass off this kind of crazy, psychopath hero or mythical figure,” Lee said. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s edgy. It’s a scenario that needs to be told.’ But there’s already so many stories like this, we don’t need another one.”

Lee said they hope Phoenix’s Joker is condemned for his actions throughout the film, although they do not want the character to be given a redemption arch. This storyline, they said, would feed into the heroic aspect that they are concerned about.

After rumors about the script began floating around online, many film enthusiasts and fans were alarmed by reports of a misogynistic and violent scene between Joker and a female character named Sophie, played by Zazie Beetz. Alex Billington, a film critic who saw “Joker” at the Venice Film Festival, said this speculation is false.

“(Joker) is just a loner, just a sad guy who doesn’t connect with anyone,” Billington said. “(He’s) just trying to figure out if anyone even cares about him. But there’s really no misogyny in that sense, especially with Zazie Beetz. There isn’t much of a plotline that involves him hating on women at all, so I don’t think that’s a fair assessment.”

Many of the initial reactions from fans were based off of the film’s first couple of trailers. Billington said that the trailer is only a taste of the film, and the film is trying to appeal to the masses while also catering to the comic book audience.

“A two minute trailer doesn’t really give (people) a sense to really grasp what (the film) actually may be,” Billington said. “I feel like Warner Bros. is having a hard time marketing it to the comic book movie crowd. It is an R-rated dark drama, which is something that they have to handle sensitively.”

“Joker” will land in theaters this October, giving critics and fans the chance to experience the film for themselves as well as join the discussion surrounding its themes and statements.