Amidst Family-Friendly ‘Billionaire’ Movies, ‘Joker’ is the Only R-Rated Feature to Break the Mold
“Joker” came out nearly two months ago on October 4th. Upon release, it earned an immediate $93.5 million, giving it the highest-grossing October opening weekend ever. Recently, however, “Joker” broke yet another record, this time solidifying it as a financial success and a milestone movie.
Earlier this week, “Joker” became the first R-rated movie to earn more than $1 billion at the box office, edging out “Deadpool” as the most lucrative R-Rated film of all time.
Only a handful of movies have managed to break the $1 billion threshold. This year, “Joker” joins the likes of “Avengers: Endgame,” “Toy Story 4,” and “The Lion King” as a film that managed to earn ten figures. It is also Warner Brothers’ biggest success since “Aquaman,” which came out in December 2018 and grossed $1.2 billion.
Almost every movie to make over a $1 billion has been a family-friendly action-comedy blockbuster, nestled somewhere between a PG and PG-13 rating. This usually allows for a wider range of people to buy tickets. “Joker,” however, stands out as an R-rated sinister drama that made an artistic debut at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. The movie even received some backlash for its ultra-violent themes and its humanization of the criminally insane.
Public Obsession with ‘Joker’ Brings Alarm as Many Fear it could Spawn Copy Cats
Of course, the movie is about Batman’s arch nemesis and is technically under the DC Entertainment label. Thus, it was bound to find success from the beginning. Nevertheless, given “Joker’s” mature nature and radical subject matter, it remains quite impressive that the film is doing as well as it is.
Like most big-budget films nowadays, the majority of “Joker’s” success came from foreign ticket sales. The movie has earned $694 million abroad compared to $322.6 million domestic. However, Warner Brothers also managed to make this hefty figure without releasing the film in China, which is the second largest movie market in the world.
Some may find it disturbing that a movie focusing on the antagonist is drawing so much attention. Many fear that audiences will empathize with the Joker too much and perhaps try to follow in his deranged and violent footsteps.
Despite Criticism, Filmmakers Defend Artistry as a Potential Oscar Buzz surrounds the ‘Clown Prince’
Director Todd Phillips and lead actor Joaquin Phoenix (who plays the titular character) have heard these criticisms loud and clear, but they still defend their work. Essentially, they take the stance that filmmakers have artistic freedom to tell the stories they want to tell, no matter how unsavory the characters or how risky the themes. They contend that filmmakers (like any artists) do not have an obligation to teach viewers morality—it is up to the individual to interpret the story ethically and make the right choices.
Regardless, the criticism is not stopping people from seeing the movie. Evidently, millions of people from all around the world are flocking to theaters for “Joker.” Meanwhile, it is also getting positive reviews and potential Oscar buzz, especially regarding Joaquin Phoenix transformative performance as the Clown Prince of Darkness.
“Joker” as a whole is a divisive and morally ambiguous picture. The movie was a risk on Warner Brothers’ part and its ultimate legacy is yet to be determined. At the very least, though, Warner Bros knows that the risk paid off financially, and that they are cashing a big check for their fast and loose quasi-Batman anti-hero project.
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