Did you see Joker last weekend? Well, plenty certainly did! Not only did Joker make millions in its debut weekend, but it also smashed all previous October records. All this amid a massive backlash from viewers and critics alike before the movie even opened! Read on to discover Joker‘s bizarre journey to cinemas…
The Lead-Up Controversy
If you’ve missed this movie, let us fill you in: Joker tells the origin story of the famous, titular Batman villain. The film is directed by Todd Phillips, director of the Hangover franchise, and stars Joaquin Phoenix, who portrays the Joker as a normal human being, at least at the beginning. Joker follows the character’s spiral into darkness: from a failing stand-up comedian to an isolated loner who turns his frustration into horrible acts of violence towards people. More than one critic compared it to the dark Robert De Niro classic, Taxi Driver.
However, dark movies come out all the time. So what makes Joker different? Well, many people, including affected family members, felt that it hit too close to home after the 2012, real-life Aurora The Dark Knight Rises shooting,in which the criminal dressed himself up to look like the Joker character. Furthermore, they believed that a film that idolized the Joker might inspire others to commit similar crimes. Others felt that, with the number of mass shootings in America, a movie where someone targets innocent people was simply in bad taste.
When Joker won Best Film at the Venice Festival, the backlash really started to pick up. However, the film was not without its defenders…
Pro-Joker & Freedom Of Speech
While many felt like Joker crossed too many lines, others thought it incredibly important for Warner Bros. to release and support the movie. First and foremost, they argued, was the matter of freedom of speech. Fans felt an artist should be free to create art as they see fit – especially dark, rated-R art. Furthermore, they pointed to the mountains of scientific studies that prove that violent video games and films do not make people more violent. Those offended by the movie, fans said, could simply stay home and avoid the film altogether. After all, if people really didn’t want Joker released, the box office numbers would prove it.
Phoenix and Phillips defended their movie, with the actor saying he believes the audience could tell right from wrong. The two avoided taking a political stance but rather express the artistic choices behind the Joker. In the end, it did not seem to matter much…
Joker’s Massive Opening
The backlash did have an effect on Joker ticket sales. Some theaters canceled the premiere screenings on opening night because of death threats. Others had security stationed outside the theaters. Still, despite the controversies, Joker soared at the box office. The film made a whopping $13.3 million on Friday night alone, making back a quarter of its budget opening night. As of Thursday, the movie’s total earnings sit at around $93 million. Joker easily beat the previous October record, held by Venom (another villain-centric comic book), which made $80.3 million in its first week last year.
The Joker‘s earning surprised many. Critics and experts believed the backlash in the weeks leading to the film’s release would doom it. However, it’s likely that the controversy actually helped! When a movie faces backlash, often a counter-backlash builds up. Furthermore, the constant discussion of Joker‘s ethical merits essentially acted as free press. In short: people who typically would never have seen Joker went just to see what all the noise was about!