Controversy and media coverage aside, Joker is a fairly miserable origin story with a bleak, nihilistic outlook on society as a whole. It's about an hour of Joaquin Phoenix—a mentally ill, poverty stricken man—getting beaten down and abused by society, followed by an hour of him using that to justify himself doing absolutely horrible shit. It has very little to say, and its vague message is part of the reason the film has been so polarising. In the end, Joker has succeeded in sparking chaos and riots in Gotham—a class war of sorts built upon nothing, for no reason. It is a deeply unpleasant movie. You'll walk away depressed, wondering if there's any good left in the world.
And that's exactly where a sequel—starring our hero, Batman—might make the experience of seeing Joker worth it. If Joker succeeds in one thing, it's in creating a truly visceral origin story for a villain, while building a world desperately in need of a hero. When the film ends, the Joker leaves Gotham burning. When I left the theatre, I felt that despair. I really remained engrossed in the horror of Gotham and its problems—and was annoyed that this movie had nothing to say about any of them, didn't solve anything, and left me with no sense of closure. In that sense, the movie felt like a failure, desperately lacking any sort of emotional resolve. But if you think of it as the beginning of something bigger, Joker seems like a pretty powerful opening to something of a trilogy.
To be clear, when asked if Robert Pattinson's Batman and Phoenix's Joker would appear in a film together, director Todd Phillips has said, "No, definitely not." Phillips did, however, leave the door open for a Joker of some sort to return. “Oddly, in the states, comic books are our Shakespeare it seems, and you can do many many versions of Hamlet,” Phillips said. “There will be many more Jokers, I’m sure, in the future.”
So consider this. In Joker, Phoenix's character is about 30 years old. In the film, we watch as he interacts with a young Bruce Wayne of about nine or 10 years old. If Pattinson's Batman is in his 30s, that would leave Phoenix's Joker in a future movie somewhere in his 50s—closer to the actor's actual age. But if, as Phillips said, Phoenix's Joker won't appear in a future movie with Pattinson, is it possible that one of the many hordes of clowns that Arthur Fleck inspired becomes the super villain? Is Phoenix's disturbed party clown just a symbol to influence who we know as the Joker? At the end of Joker, one of the people in a clown mask, inspired by Fleck, murders Bruce's parents as they're leaving a show—echoing the real Batman origin story.
Though it has become the most profitable genre in Hollywood, I’ll admit, I’m one of the few people who’s growing tired of superhero movies. And I applaud Phillips and Phoenix for making such a bold, adult film. That said, I never thought I’d find myself begging for another superhero to appear on screen. The film is set up perfectly to have a sequel that introduces Batman—Pattinson's or otherwise. And we're also primed for a very interesting and personal conflict between Batman and Joker—Phoenix's or otherwise.
Without a companion movie, what are we doing here? We're simply introducing a miserable chaotic world parallel to our own with no protagonist, no hope, and nothing to really say. This isn't a character study that can stand alone in the way something like Taxi Driver (to which Joker is very indebted) can.
This is a comic book story. This is something that demands, or at least deserves, a complete emotional and narrative arc. Otherwise, we're just left stranded in Joker's hellscape, hopeless, in need of a hero. I'd hope we deserve more than that.
Source: Esquire US