We’ve already heard a lot about why Joaquin Phoenix was the ideal choice for taking on the title role in Joker. The actor’s intensity and ability to make complex characters his own meant he was able to tackle someone with an iconic history. One part of the promotional tour for the film, however, has prompted a strong reaction from the critically acclaimed performer.
Apparently, he was asked if Joker “might perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results?” Rather than answering the question though, the actor got up and left the interview. Although he did return to complete it, the issue of copycat violence is one that has a particular resonance for the Batman series due to the shootings at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012.
The realistic violence in Joker, meanwhile, has been described as having a visceral impact by director Todd Phillips, while some critics have also questioned whether the movie will have a negative effect on impressionable fans. That remains to be seen, but it’s clear that this is going to be one film that’ll be stirring up some controversy when it hits theaters.
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Warner Bros. will certainly not be taking the significance of Joker’s violence lightly, either, particularly given the controversy that plagued The Hunt earlier this year. The reaction to the upcoming origin pic so far has broadly emphasized some of the deviations it takes from conventional superhero movies, and in this case, the tone and violence are notably darker than other major studio releases. Joker‘s grounded approach is also arguably different from that of bleak DC movies like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the grim tone was superficial and the violence over-the-top.
In any case, Phoenix and Warner Bros. can probably expect more tough questions before Joker‘s October 4th release, with the critical buzz around the movie hopefully eclipsing its controversy. It can’t be denied though that linking real-world violence directly to entertainment is problematic, particularly when it comes to mass shootings where simplistic comparisons to violent media are used to obscure more complex motivations and their wider contexts.