Film

The First Reviews For The Controversial ‘Joker’ Are In And Critics Are Deeply Divided

It's either "gloriously daring and explosive" or "a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels".

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

There’s been a lot of debate about the upcoming film Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Batman’s number one bad guy.

On the one hand, Phoenix is a brilliant actor, and The Joker is one of the most iconic villains of all time. On the other, there’s been some understandable scepticism about the need for a movie that portrays a creepy, violent white dude in a sympathetic light.

Of course, it’s been difficult to judge the extent to which this is a fair criticism of the film, given not a lot of people have actually seen it. Or at least they hadn’t until its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend. Now the reviews are in and… it kind of sounds like both sides had a point.

As of writing, the film has an 89 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has earned especially glowing reviews from The Guardian (who called it “gloriously daring and explosive”), Time Out (“a truly nightmarish vision of late-era capitalism” and “arguably the best social horror film since Get Out“) and Empire (“bold, devastating and utterly beautiful”).

Even the more middle-of-the-road reviews have been full of praise for Phoenix. The Film Stage gave the movie a B but said Phoenix’s performance was “worth the price of admission alone”, while Gizmodo called it “undoubtedly the highlight” of a “solid, well-made film that, ultimately, has a bit of an identity crisis”.

The negative reviews have largely honed in on the film’s themes and politics. Time accused it of “aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy”, while a review at RogerEbert.com wrote that “as social commentary, Joker is pernicious garbage”. And IndieWire went so far as to call it “a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels”, which I can’t imagine ends up on the poster any time soon.

Anyway, you can make up your own damn mind when Joker hits Australian cinemas on October 3.