Despite some initial apprehension regarding the very need of the project, an origin story for perhaps the most revered comic book villain of our time, there has been nothing but approval and hype for DC’s latest, ever since the first teaser trailer premiered online and Joaquin Phoenix blew the collective minds of a somewhat discerning audience. Not that there was any doubt regarding his acting prowess, or that he could completely portray the character with enough zane, insanity, and gravitas (In fact, I believe Phoenix is one of the handful of people on this planet who could have actually pulled it off, and he did) but the film looked equally promising too.
Promo after promo followed until the hype for the film built up to an early October high, even as critics and award functions continued showering their unbridled love for the film, including the Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival. The film is in fact being cited as the first serious Oscar contender out there by many trade pundits, and people have gone out on a limb to predict that Phoenix would be bagging an Oscar for his twisted portrayal. All of this was generously peppered in a well-planned pre-release campaign by WB, and it seems like it’s about to pay off.
As long as until last week, the box office predictions for ‘Joker’s opening weekend figures over the North American market and worldwide have continued to revise in the upwards direction, and despite the still prevailing uncertainty over how well it would actually perform over its life cycle at the box office, things are looking in pretty good shape for ‘Joker’ over the weekend. Obviously, the enduring popularity of the character itself, the credibility that Joaquin Phoenix brings to the scene as an actor, and an increasingly positive word of mouth have been able to sufficiently mask the somewhat divided critics’ views, and are all going to strong factors in factoring in how front loaded this R-Rated character study is.
‘Joker’ opened earlier this week in a select few markets, and amassed roughly $5.4 Million worldwide, which is a win for the film on every count. Following Thursday previews, ‘Joker’ set the record for highest gross for Thursday showings for any film in October with $13.3 Million, beating out the previous record holder, ‘Venom’ that stood at $10 Million. Compared to another R-Rated, slow burn character oriented film, ‘Logan’ that amassed roughly $9.5 Million, and a moderate opener with a prolonged shelf life in ‘Wonder Woman’, another DC property that amassed $11 Million being a June release, I’d say that’s a massive achievement in line with the current predictions of ‘Joker’ having a $90 Million plus opening weekend on home base.
‘Joker’ was also just shy of ‘Justice League’s $13.5 Million Thursday figure, and while JL isn’t a particularly good example to begin with, it should give you a fair idea of the hype for this film. You don’t even need to consider that ‘Joker’ is a slow burning antithesis of a comic book film that wouldn’t normally appeal to family friendly audiences, or people who have come to expect more sound and fury from their blockbusters. I am also predicting the film to fall in its second week, but nothing quite too significant. However, something tells me that it won’t be beating ‘Logan’s $600 Million plus worldwide bout, settling in somewhere near the $400 Million plus bracket, worldwide.
The second thing that I feel could maybe harm its prospects a bit in the home circuit, apart from the very nature of the film itself is the hysteria accompanying the film’s release and several experts predicting that the representation of a damaged psyche and the dark nature of criminal acts in the film may lead to a slew of copy cat crimes, or it may end up “inspiring” people, the way the clown prince of crime ended up doing in the film itself.
In fact, amidst news and speculations, the Aurora theatre where a masked man dressed like the Joker opened fire, killing and injuring several people during a screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ refused to even show the film. You’d think that fandom and mass mania stretched only as far as T-shirts and collectibles. In the case of the Joker though, it goes much, much deep inward.
Which brings us to an important question we at The Cinemaholic too have been pondering over ever since the controversy found its way to the public conscience, one about the supposed ‘responsibility’ of Art. Several of us out there may disagree with that notion, but no one perhaps would when I argue about the freedom of expression that art is supposed to entail. Lo and behold, we have a set of contradictory statements right at the outset of the opening of the argument. Art is indulgent. It is socially aware. But, it can also be wildly influential.
But then again, that has always been the history of the character, and perhaps, in a much perverse way housed in the minds of Joker fans, the reason for the unparalleled success of the character as a comic book villain as well. Batman may still cast a shadow of doubt, but the Joker is somebody who can all too well exist in the real world. Our world. That is what this film attempts to do, and that is what divides people over this film.
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