Joker only just arrived in theaters, but it's already the most controversial movie of the year. Director Todd Phillips' origin story -- about a disturbed wannabe comedian, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), who will become DC's Clown Prince of Crime -- is either the best film of the year or dangerously reckless, with few opinions falling in the middle.
At the Venice Film Festival, where it had its premiere, Joker received an eight-minute standing ovation. Critics hailed the movie as "brilliant" and "a masterpiece" and it ultimately won the festival's top prize, the Golden Lion. Phoenix's performance was lauded as Oscar-worthy and he is an early frontrunner for Best Actor.
But there was also those, who, as one critic put it, "dislike the film as heartily as anything I've seen in the past decade," and more even who cautioned that the movie is "deeply troubling." Families of the victims of the 2012 Dark Knight Rises shooting signed a call to action to Warner Bros., and the Aurora, Colorado, theater where the tragedy occurred opted not to screen the movie. Phillips blamed the "far left" for criticism.
Ultimately, moviegoers will determine how successful it is, and fans can decide for themselves whether Joker is an arthouse triumph or ugly nihilism. Either way, talk has already turned to sequels, what with this being a comic book movie and all. Joker was announced as a standalone film outside WB's ongoing DC Extended Universe, but is a sequel something Phillips is interested in?
"No," Phillips told ET's Ash Crossan. "We really like that this movie lives on its own."
Which is more than we got out of Phoenix. When asked whether he saw the role as one-and-done or if he had a desire to reprise his role, he stared into the camera and smiled cryptically. Interpret that how you will.