When it was announced that Todd Phillips was to direct a Joker origin movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, few could have predicted it would debut to rapturous applause and a bevy of five-star reviews. Though we weren’t as evangelical about its gritty, insular power, it has been interesting to see reaction to the film moving on from quiet optimism to surprised intrigue to where we are now.
Concerns about the impact that the dark, violent themes of the film would have on certain sections of the film-going community gave rise to a strange set of circumstances. The film’s premieres in major U.S. cities were changed from red carpet affairs to ‘photo-op’ only press lines. Cinemas in the U.S. are banning costumes from being worn to screenings of the film. The police have also acted – increasing visibility in certain areas, presumably keen to avoid a repeat of the tragic events of Aurora, Colorado in 2012. The director has given his view on the reaction to the film, defending the violence over and over.
It is clearly a provocative film, one that signals a tonal shift for the Warner Bros/DC Extended Universe in their ever-ongoing search for a suitable cattle shed in which to keep their cash cows. The reaction to this film, however, seems like it will be important. To provoke and to challenge an audience is at the core of much artistic endeavour, with cinema being one of the most popular forms. How we react to this provocation, and to these challenges, is important too, as it may well say more about us than it does about the films themselves.
One of the UK’s most notable filmic voices, Jonathan Ross, spoke to us this evening at the BFI Luminous Gala and gave his thoughts on the new Joker film and the dangers of making movies like this it.
” I’m not looking forward to it…because I have the feeling that it’s going to be one of those movies that encourages – the impolite word for them is incels…It seems to be there’s a certain subcurrent of not particularly well educated, young white men who seem to think the world has done them a great disservice. The last thing we need is another hero figure, especially a psychopathic, violent one, for them to rally around.
“I’m not saying it’s irresponsible filmmaking because I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m not looking forward to it. I mean… I quite like Joaquin Phoenix – I don’t think anyone likes his performances as much as he does – but I quite like seeing him on screen. But it’s not a film that’s exciting me.
“It’ll be interesting to see Warner Bros finally doing a superhero type movie that doesn’t suck though. Shazam was great! I loved Shazam – that’s what I’d like to see personally, as a superhero fan. I love to see films like that. [Films] which capture the innocence and the power and the magic of those early superhero films.”
Here’s the interview:
Jonathan Ross attending the BFI Luminous Gala held at the Camden Roundhouse on the eve of the London Film Festival. Other attendees included Olivia Colman, Hugh Grant, Gemma Arterton, Taron Egerton, Michelle Dockery, Dev Patel, Romola Garai, Jason Watkins, Hayley Squires, Hugh Bonneville, Tuppence Middleton, Natalie Emmanuel, Joan Collins, Cara Horgan, Edgar Wright, Terry Gilliam, and Peter Morgan.
The interview is conducted by Scott Davis with Colin Hart on camera, and you can see our other interviews on the site, as well as what might be Ben Wheatley’s first interview since being announced as the director of Tomb Raider 2 with Alicia Vikander.