Joaquin Phoenix truly was a standout in his Oscar-winning role in Joker. Alien’s Ridley Scott would agree with that as he praised Phoenix for portraying the origin story of the famed villain but criticized the movie as a whole.
Compared to seeing Joker facing off against Batman as usual on the big screen, Todd Phillips‘ Joker is solely a character study of Joker. Audiences witnessed how aspiring comic Arthur Fleck became the diabolical villain of Gotham City. However, not everyone was a fan of the movie. Ridley Scott, who directed Joquin Phoenix in Gladiator, said to Deadline that while he may not have enjoyed Joker, a familiar actor’s performance didn’t escape his attention.
“I was blown away by his outrageous film Joker,” said Scott. “I didn’t like the way it celebrated violence, but Joaquin was remarkable.”
Ridley Scott could be referring to how audiences were seeing things from his perspective of the violent Arthur Fleck. Viewers can argue that the movie makes us want to sympathize with the failed stand-up comic. His uncontrollable laughing stops him from making a name for himself, with his peers showing no empathy for him. This gives him the motivation to violently lash out at the world.
On the other hand, Ridley Scott can thank Joker for showing him Joaquin Phoenix’s acting range. So much so that according to Empire, what he saw in Joker inspired The Last Duel filmmaker to reunite with Phoenix and cast him in the epic historical drama Napoleon.
“I’m staring at Joaquin and saying, ‘This little demon is Napoleon Bonaparte.’ He looks like him.”
Was Ridley Scott the Only One Who Found Criticism with Joker?
When Joker first came out in 2019, there were a lot of critics who found fault with the film’s violence. Time Magazine said critics who first saw Joker at the Venice and Toronto film festivals found the psychological thriller “dangerous.” Reviews said that the movie provided empathy and glorification of an outcasted mentally ill man’s violent motives. Critics worried that a movie like this would send a bad message since people like Joker exist outside the big screen. Joker was also released the same month two mass shootings took place in Texas and Ohio within a 24-hour period.
Todd Philips told The Wrap that he was “surprised” at the backlash surrounding Joker.
“Isn’t it good to have these discussions? Isn’t it good to have these discussions about these movies, about violence? Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?” asked Phillips. “We didn’t make the movie to push buttons.”
Despite Joker’s controversy, it still made stellar accomplishments. Not only did Joaquin Phoenix win Best Actor that year, but Joker became the first R-rated movie to hit the $1 billion mark at the box office. The success of Joker inspired a 2024 musical sequel with Phoenix and Philipps returning and co-starring Lady Gaga called Joker: Folie à Deux.