The new film by The Hangover director Todd Phillips has already been garnering much hype and acclaim without having officially been released in theaters.
Much of this acclaim comes from the performance of Phoenix, who some feel is primed for Oscar contention with his intense portrayal of the Joker, Gotham’s most notorious villain and one of the greatest comic book villains of all time.
Though there’s been a long list of actors who have taken on the role of Arthur Fleck, Phillip’s new film is the first to eschew past notions of comic book lore and instead focus on the Joker as a man pushed past the brink of sanity by a cruel and unforgiving city and world.
The film has already claimed the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion, which is the top prize awarded at the Italian festival. Since then, Joker has screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received no small amount of praise, but also garnered its share of criticism and negative reviews.
The true debate over Joker and Phoenix’s performance won’t really be a fair one, however, until the film hits theaters this upcoming October. Until then, fans of the Joker are left to wonder whether this portrayal of the famed DC villain will measure up to the likes of past Jokers such as Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger.
One thing that is certain about Joker, however, is that Ledger’s Oscar-winning take on the character will never be forgotten and some new footage from Beast Brothers YouTube channel proves as much. A distinct homage to Ledger’s Joker as he rides in a police car can be seen in Joker, with Phoenix in a similar, though obviously not identical situation. You can check out the entire video below, with the homage coming at the 20-second mark.
As previously stated, the situation is not at all the same as it was in The Dark Knight, when Ledger’s Joker was at the height of his insane rampage.
But as Joker is billed as more of an arthouse rendering of the villain, a subtle nod to Ledger’s groundbreaking work feels perfectly at home here. In terms of making a comparison between Ledger’s work and Phoenix’s, that is definitely something that will have to wait until the film has been widely released.
Ledger was awarded his best-supporting actor Oscar posthumously, and while he was deserving of the award for his truly off-the-wall performance, it’s difficult to put both Ledger and Phoenix in the same camp, as the only real point of comparison is that they both played the same character.
Aside from that, Joker and The Dark Knight appear to be two completely different films.
It’s also worth considering that while Joker has been receiving ample amounts of praise and hype since its Golden Lion win, that alone isn’t a guarantee of success.
Sofia Coppola won the same award in 2010 for Somewhere and the film then went on to disappear into relative obscurity.
As good as Phoenix’s performance may or may not be in Joker, it’s still far too early to believe that he has the best actor Oscar on lock. Regardless of awards, however, simply enjoying Phoenix’s performance should be enough for any fan of the Joker and the legacy it holds.
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