One of 2019’s most anticipated films, Joker, opens in the cinemas this week behind great reviews, bad reviews, controversy, and more. Director Todd Phillips has now weighed in, again, on the discourse surrounding the movie. He told The Wrap that he’s been surprised to see the reaction to Joker coming across in some circles as negative. The discourse surrounding Joker has some people talking about and confronting big issues like gun violence and more.
“I’m surprised… Isn’t it good to have these discussions? Isn’t it good to have these discussions about these movies, about violence? Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?” Phillips said. The director went on to talk about why he thinks people are eager to pile on to Joker.
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity,” he said. “I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while. What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye opening for me.”
Phillips went on to say that he didn’t make Joker to “push buttons” or to glorify Arthur Fleck’s murderous actions. The idea from the start, which he shared with star Joaquin Phoenix, was to make Joker a “real movie” with the guise of a comic book movie. That pitch, and a relatively small budget ($55 million) helped Warner Bros. agree to make the movie.
“I literally described to Joaquin at one point in those three months as like, ‘Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film,'” Phillips said. “It wasn’t, ‘We want to glorify this behavior.’ It was literally like, ‘Let’s make a real movie with a real budget and we’ll call it f***ing Joker.’ That’s what it was.”
Earlier this month, the families of victims killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting reached out to Warner Bros. to ask the film studio to help use their influence to make safer communities with fewer guns. The shooting took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
In response, Warner Bros. said, “Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic.”
Warner Bros. stands by Joker, and added that it does not endorse violence of any kind.
“Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues,” thew statement said. “Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
In GameSpot’s own Joker review, we noted that “Joker humanizes a murderer in a way that may make the kinds of disenfranchised real-world mass killers we now see regularly salivate–or, in the worst possible scenario, provide them inspiration.”
Joker had its Hollywood premiere over the weekend, and Warner Bros. disinivited press and media from print and broadcast. Only photographers were allowed to attend, Variety reported.
“Our red carpet is comprised of photographers only,” a spokesperson for Warner Bros. said. “A lot has been said about Joker and we just feel it’s time for people to see the film.”
Joker premieres October 4.