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'Joker' Film Gets Poor Reviews, Makes Big Money

Joaquin Phoenix stars as the title character in new film 'Joker.'
Joaquin Phoenix stars as the title character in new film 'Joker.'
'Joker' Film Gets Poor Reviews, Makes Big Money
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The long awaited Joker opened Friday in theaters across America.

If you have not heard, the movie is the latest examination of the Joker character, a 1940 creation of DC Comics. Joker is an especially tricky criminal, who serves as an enemy to the superhero Batman.

Filmmakers have been creating “origin” stories for the Joker character for years. This latest effort, directed by Todd Phillips, took home the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Yet, many American and British movie critics are laughing at the film -- and not in a good way.

Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a man with a brain problem that makes him laugh uncontrollably. Often it happens in situations when others might cry or react differently. People do not understand his behavior.

He dreams of being a stand-up comedian and making audiences laugh. But after being beaten and mistreated by strangers, Arthur launches into a life of a murderous criminal.

Many American movie critics have praised Phoenix’s performance. Rolling Stone magazine said the word “phenomenal” was too small to describe the actor’s work in Joker. Variety, a film industry trade publication, called Phoenix’s performance “astonishing.”

However, opinion on the movie overall is less favorable.

Atlantic Magazine’s David Sims writes that as the movie turns to “bloody violence, it becomes little more than a horror show.”

The headline of Time magazine’s review of the film reads: “Joker wants to be a movie about the emptiness of our culture. Instead, it’s a prime example of it.”

There is praise as well.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times calls the film a, “dark, intense, well-photographed examination of a damaged and dangerous” person.

Joker caused some fear and debate in America leading up to its release. Some argued that the film’s social commentary could incite violence.

Its historical context could be a reason. In 2012, a gunman in the U.S. state of Colorado attacked a theater full of people gathered for a showing of the movie The Dark Knight Rises, the second in an earlier three-part Batman movie series. The violence left 12 people dead and more than seventy others injured.

On Thursday, national security agencies warned about possible violence at the opening weekend of Joker. They expressed concern about online messages calling for mass shootings at theaters that show the film.

Later that night, Joker played in a limited number of theaters and earned more than $13 million in ticket sales. It broke the record set last year for Thursday pre-opening movie showings in the month of October.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver wrote this report for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to correctly identify the movie The Dark Knight Rises.​


Words in This Story

origin n. the place, social situation, or type of family that a person comes from​

stand-up comedian n. a person who performs humorous material alone on a stage​

phenomenal adj. very good or great : unusual in a way that is very impressive​

astonishing adj. causing a feeling of great surprise or wonder : causing astonishment​

prime adj. used to say that someone or something is a very good example of a particular kind of person or thing​

contextn. the situation in which something happens: the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens​

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