Joker reviews round-up: Critics split over ‘numbing’ and ‘nihilistic’ Joaquin Phoenix movie

One publication described Todd Phillips’s take on the DC villain as ‘the most disappointing film of the year’

Ellie Harrison
Friday 04 October 2019 09:38
Joker - Trailer 2

The reviews are in for Joker – and while Joaquin Phoenix’s performance has been widely praised, critics are split over Todd Phillips’s “numbing”, “nihilistic” take on the DC villain’s origin story.

“Phoenix’s Joker is a heavier, more brooding and introspective figure than that of Heath Ledger in [Christopjher] Nolan’s The Dark Knight,” wrote The Independent’s reviewer Geoffrey Macnab, who gave the film four stars.

“He doesn’t have Ledger’s quicksilver energy. He moves more slowly. However, when his malevolence is finally unleashed, he is just as effective a lord of chaos.”

The Telegraph, meanwhile, described Phoenix’s portrayal of the misanthrope as “dangerously good” and deemed the film “a Fight Club for our time”.

However, not all were impressed. The Guardian’s critic called Joker “desperately serious and very shallow” and crowned it “the most disappointing film of the year”, a stark contrast to the reaction of the audience at its Venice premiere where it received an eight-minute standing ovation.

Vulture’s reviewer wrote that the movie is like “one unpleasant note played louder and louder”, adding: “Joker is the ultimate Joaquin Phoenix role, which is not necessarily a compliment, though not a disparagement, either. He’s the best unhinged movie actor in the world.”

The New Statesman’s critic said Phoenix’s performance “makes this film seem better than it is – but Joker remains insubstantial and inconsistent”.

Joker is out in UK cinemas now.

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