When Joaquin Pheonix turned down the role of Doctor Strange fans were understandably upset, but then it all turned out in the end when Benedict Cumberbatch took the role. The thing is Joaquin Pheonix wouldn’t be able to work within the constraints of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. The character depth we’ve come to find in the MCU films are shallow and fit into archetypes we see all the time. They will never get a fast one over the fans, not really because we can see where the characters are heading. They also wanted to lock Joaquin down for a slate of films within the MCU. So why would he turn down Disney and later choose to do a character in a DC film? Well, Warner Brothers gave him freedom, and what we got is an amazing arthouse film centered around the greatest comic book villain of them all.


Joker takes place in the seventies as we follow Arthur Fleck, the man who will become the monster we love to hate. Arthur works for a company that rents out clowns, so he will go from holding up a shop sign to cheering up ill children at the hospital. Arthur’s life isn’t much, but he’s satisfied that he’s on the right track as he thinks he’ll become a big stand-up comedian someday. Arthur struggles at connecting with society and tries to emulate others to become more accepted. This is usually due to his affliction for laughing at inappropriate times, he can’t help it and is even carries a medical certification of the fact when in public. After a number of bad turns, he is fired from his job and his life turns to disarray. The city of Gotham seemingly follows these bad beats as Arthur gets knocked down time and time again. While Arthur seems to not be able to gather the spotlight in comedy clubs he finds himself to be an icon for the downbeat that are sick of being treated poorly by Gotham. Arthur becomes like a martyr to Gotham and in his place, Joker is born.

Joker is a fantastic movie. Unsurprisingly, it has also opened the floodgates for media to shred it to bits. Joker is being misunderstood by people who have probably either not seen the film or are fitting it into a narrative that will generate views for their outlet. Joker is not a film that promotes violence, or a film that tries humanizing a monster. Here’s the thing… people are fascinated with monsters. You go to a bookshop and there is half an aisle dedicated to serial killers. People don’t read these books as to how to murder? but instead, we want to know what drove them to it. It’s not always clear what triggers these people to do the things that they do, and yet in a perverse way we are interested. We want to know what made the Joker become the villain of the story? There are also minimal deaths in this movie, way less than any action film. The reason people are holding this one to be so violent is that it feels authentic and resembles our world very closely, even more so than the Nolan films. Like most arthouse films, we are so close to Arthur in every shot that we are intimate with his character so much so that we see how his psychosis morphs into the Joker by the end. This film resembles something like the movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas as we watch over the course of a day his character shifts from a level headed individual to an unstable person on the brink. For these reasons don’t take your children, it’s not a movie for them and it seems that a number of kids are going into this movie.


After watching Batman: Year One recently, my girlfriend said that this is what she would imagine a Joker: Year One would be and I tend to agree. Joker takes a lot of inspiration from the flashbacks filled within The Killing Joke graphic novel that sees his roots in stand-up comedy and home life. Todd Phillips may have directed Joker, however, it’s Joaquin Pheonix’s movie. You could not have created such a showpiece of what a superhero film could be with just any other actor. At the moment Joaquin Pheonix has a nomination spot for Best Actor in a feature film this year from this performance. And as the year begins to near its end he may keep it, if not win the Oscar. As much as I loved this film I hope it’s a one and done film with Joaquin Pheonix. I hope they do more of these standalone ventures that don’t feel the need to be threaded into a bigger narrative.


I’m interested to see where everyone falls on Joker once the media blowback settles, like will it be atop of the superhero genre, or fall among the many others in time?

Robert Ring

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is last year’s unexpected blockbuster and it exploded from being unknown to being included on every movie conversation of 2014. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had an amazing track record with this tenth film in the series and it may be the most ambitious film to date.


A young Peter Quill weeping from his mother’s death is ripped from his home planet of Earth, and is raised by a band of thieves that snatch up artefacts throughout the galaxy for the highest bidders. While the years that passed for Peter were far from home, he had the company of Earth in the form of his mother’s gift of an old cassette player with a tape entitled “Awesome Mix Vol.1”. The cassette holds hits from the 70s which act as a fine storytelling device to break and create tension as well as a relationship for the audience to still feel homely in a universe so strange and different from our own. Like a favourite album you can sit and listen to on repeat the fun begins when Peter plays the cassette tape and again it ends with the cassette tape. Peter finds himself with a group of misfits getting into prison together, breaking out together and attempting to save the world together. The ensemble cast from Peter (Chris Pratt), to the green alien Gamora (Zoe Saldana), to Drax an alien brute (Dave Bautista), along with them is the racoon, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot the true voiced by Vin Diesel with the single word “Groot”. While the story lacks a bit of depth, you come for the characters and stay to see their hijinks. The director, James Gunn did a great job at making the marvel universe feel like it had a great sense of scope, and if you loved the show Firefly, you’ll love this.

I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy and name it my favourite film for 2014!

4/5 – Stars

Robert Ring


Marvel brings a new genre of film to their cinematic universe and this time we get a heist film. Ant Man is a fun heist film for the family with a touch of Honey I Shrunk the Kids.

Scott Lang played by Paul Rudd is a crook that has just been released from his prison sentence and we see that he wants to become honourable in the eyes of his young daughter, which we find he has in common with Michael Douglas’s character later on. Scott’s skills for breaking into some of the most secure vaults make him the prime candidate to helm the suit for a heist and set out to steal the new suit being prepped for diabolical purposes. Paul Rudd is great and believable in the title role, but he might need another film to make you take away the star Paul Rudd from our eyes and see Ant-Man instead. Michael Douglas was the best part of the movie to me. I didn’t think an actor as talented as him would fit well into this universe, but he made himself feel right at home in it. His character, Hank Pym is the inventor of the shrinking technology and we see he was the original Ant-Man hero who infiltrated the enemy Hydra in his youth. Hank is also the reason for the antagonist Darren Cross, who was once his protege though he began to feel alienated from the truth of his suit and began working out how to create his own shrinking suit for sale in global warfare and “peacekeeping.” Evangeline Lilly is back on the big screen for this film, which is always a good thing and she brings us a strong female character to the Marvel roster.

When Edgar Wright, one of my favourite directors and writers had left the project I was doubtful in Marvel achieving a great film without him, and to a degree I was right. While we didn’t get an Edgar Wright film in Ant-Man we did get a Marvel film. Edgar Wright’s films are stylistic and when you look at Marvel’s films the directors are relatively invisable so hopefully we get a new one from him soon with his energies put towards something he can continue to make his own.

Ant-Man is easily one of my favourite Marvel standalone films and almost as much fun as Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel’s stamp is all through the film and it has a lot of sneaky easter eggs to keep fans of the marvel cinematic universe smirking. There are also two scenes to wait for after the credits start rolling so stay seated and enjoy.

3.5/5 – Stars

Robert Ring