Joker is going to go down, likely, as the biggest movie of the Fall season, and one of the biggest of 2019. No one was really quite sure what to make of the villain origin story, with Warner Bros. initially hedging their bets by bringing in a financing partner. But the film is nothing but a success, having earned over $800 million worldwide with more on the way.
Moreover, the critical and audience reactions have been quite good, with many viewing the pic as more of a psychological thriller than an outright superhero film. This idea stems from the fact that Arthur Fleck, who transforms into the titular baddie, is clearly mentally ill. There’s even a viewing of movie that suggests everything happens inside Fleck’s head.
Now, during an interview with Empire, director Todd Phillips has weighed in on this theory, positing that it is legitimate, but that he has a “firm view” on what’s reality and what’s all in Arthur’s mind. The filmmaker elaborated on his thought process, specifically stating:
You could [read it that way]. I have a firm view on it too, but yeah you certainly could. When Scott Silver and I sat down to write it, we knew enough about the comics. I read comics when I was a kid, we knew [Joker] didn’t have an origin story. I don’t want to say whether it’s real or not because I think [it’s] part of the fun. I’ve shown it to many, many different people and they all have a different reaction. Some of them say, ‘Oh I get it, I mean the last line in the movie, you wouldn’t get it, to a joke he was telling. Well is the joke the movie? Is the joke the thing?’ The idea is you don’t like to answer those questions, because it’s nice to see the different things people take away from it.
Sometimes it can be good for a movie not to answer every question and to make the audience think. Joker seems to work along the same lines as Chris Nolan’s Inception, in that the ending can be taken several ways, but each is legitimate. The ambiguity apparent throughout the film seems to be the point that Phillips was trying to make and will only ensure that Arthur Fleck’s journey will be discussed by cinephiles for years to come.