Review: ‘Joker’ isn’t as smart as it thinks it is

This review includes some spoilers. Jokeradopts a paint-by-numbers approach to making a serious comic book movie, drawing directly from Martin ScorsesesTaxi Driver andThe King of Comedy.Instead of portraying the Joker as a sadistic prankster with a perverse sense of humor, director/co-writer Todd Phillips reimagines him as a tragic figure who struggles with mental illness, plagued by relatable socio-economic problems in a harsh, unforgiving city. Phillips was keen to find realistic explanations for the Jokers appearance and behavior, abandoning the old origin story of a man falling into a vat of chemicals like Jack Nicholson in Tim BurtonsBatman. Differing from Heath Ledgers chaotic terrorist or Mark Hamills rascally megalomaniac,Jokers Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a professional clown who becomes a garden-variety …