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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

Movie Review: Joker

By Sei Ogawa

(Japanese translation coming soon.)

Joker is a 2019 thriller made in the U.S. that depicts the birth of Joker, a villain (super villain) in the DC Comics Batman. Joaquin Phoenix, known as an award winning actor in Gladiator and The Master, starred in the movie, and Todd Phillips, who succeeded in the Hangover! Series, was the director. It was released in theaters on the same day in Japan and the United States from October 4, 2019.

This is a complete one-off movie that does not share a direct connection with any of the past Batman movies or dramas, including the DC Extended Universe, which DC Comics has been developing since 2013. The catchphrase at the time of publication was “The real evil is in the smile."

The plot of the movie is set in Gotham City in the 1980s, where a man suffering from mental illness spends his days dreaming of becoming a comedian. It depicts how his hands gradually turn into his inner madness when they are stained with blood. He writes ironic jokes in his diary, such as “I hope my death makes more cents (sense) than my life.’’ Actually, this joke has a double-meaning.

・Cents: I pray that my death will give me more money than this life.

・Sense: I pray my death will be more meaningful than life like this.

There was a considerable gap between the rich and poor in Gotham City in the 1980s. Joker is making a joke about the irony of this disparity. He also wants to become a rich and famous comedian. Joker suffered from mental illness and could not understand his existence. The Joker, who was hated by the world, just wanted to be liked as a comedian. In the end, become famous as a villain.

His lines were an homage to Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” Joker said, “I used to think that my life was a tragedy…but now I realized it’s a f~ing king comedy.” Joker's life described in the movie is tragic in detail. You can see that Joker thinks of himself as equal to the world-famous comedian Charlie Chaplin.

America in the '80s

The economic situation in the U.S. was created by the budget deficit caused by the Vietnam War, which began in the mid-1960s, and by the trade deficit with Japan. The United States, which was declining due to these two large deficits, resulted in the implementation of two new economic policies (Reaganomics) by then president Ronald Reagan.

What is Reaganomics?

Currently, there is a similar policy (Abenomics) in Japan. Broadly speaking, the policy is aimed at overcoming deflation and stagnation, which has lasted nearly 20 years, and restoring the economy back to normal.

Results of Reaganomics

The U.S. economy was expected to recover, but as a result, the gap between the poor and the rich widened because there were some contradictions in Reaganomics. The famous comedian Charlie Chaplin said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” When we look back at our life, there are certainly many sad and unpleasant things, but in the long run it was fun.

The movie also revealed how depressed the economic situation in the United States was in the 1980s, and how Japan's economic situation began improving at around the same time until the bubble burst in the early 90’s. Since then Japan also began to adopt a type of Reaganomics. You should watch this film to understand the situation of America in the 1980s.


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