Connor Bynum // Film Critic
Comic book films are increasingly becoming more comfortable with targeting adult audiences. With movies like LOGAN, DEADPOOL and the upcoming female-led BIRDS OF PREY embracing their hard R rating, one can’t forget last year’s more artistic entry, JOKER.
While the film earned critical and commercial success upon its release, it was, unfortunately, bogged down by its controversial themes and the cultural stigma that it was preaching to the wrong choir and could inspire real-life violence. Of course, we now know that this never actually happened, and JOKER ended up being just a movie after all.
Now that the chaos has quieted down and the film is starting to rake in awards, it seems like a perfect time to revisit it on 4K UHD.
Movie Grade: A-
When we reviewed JOKER during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, we gave it a highly positive score, praising the award-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix and bold directorial decisions from Todd Phillips.
From James Cole Clay’s TIFF review:
“The screenplay by Phillips and Scott Silver draws Arthur’s routine like he’s Andy Kaufman dipped in formaldehyde. Their brand of anti humor calls back to the Rick Alverson collaboration, THE COMEDY, about an antisocial aging hipster wandering the streets of New York. It’s morose and played completely straight. You are not really sure if you should be laughing, or if Phillips will diffuse the awkward situation.”
“Set to a hazy blue color pallet by Lawrence Sher (GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS), Gotham is a waste land for its citizens, who are suffering day in and day out in a purgatory that’s just biding time from one demoralizing life event to the next. Sher’s camera work is cold and distant, while Phillips’ approach is up close and personal.”
“JOKER will have people talking; that’s what the film is chasing. As weird as it may seem, it even asks us to be kinder to those in need. It’s about a feeling of dread, impatience, and alienation that breeds fear for weirdos on the street. This isn’t a grand masterpiece of cinema, but Phillips’ film is a profound piece of blockbuster filmmaking.”
Video/Audio Grade: A+
JOKER arrives on 4K UHD after being shot on resolutions as high as 5.1K and mastered in a native 4K digital intermediate – and it shows. The picture on display is nothing short of reference quality. Dozens of minor details stick out wonderfully throughout the film.
For example, during the iconic bathroom scene where Arthur comes to terms with his first violent act of crime in the subway is gorgeous. Beads of sweat stand out on his pasty white makeup that has begun to fade, and smudges on the mirror are pristine rather than a blotchy grey mess. Strangely what makes this transfer so beautiful is how perfectly it captures the genuinely disgusting details of Gotham City.
In addition to the outstanding picture quality, the inclusion of Dolby Vision and HDR10 makes things even better. JOKER is a dark film in both tone as well as cinematography. More than half of its runtime takes place in dimly lit apartments, and exterior scenes mainly take place at night. It’s a rare thing to see true black in every single scene rather than even a little bit of noisy grey, but this film somehow pulls it off. The clever use of editing between shots in time with flickering lights in the subway feels even more natural when the black transitions live up to their namesake.
On the audio front, the disc comes with a Dolby Atmos track as well as a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix to make the best use of any home entertainment setup. These mixes are on a mission to make as much use of audio space as possible. Subway announcements come out of the rear left and right channels while the noise of grinding rails and chattering passengers come in from the front. The Oscar-nominated musical score also overwhelms the room from start to finish. On a technical level, JOKER is a masterpiece.
Extras Grade: C+
No extras are included on the 4K disc, but can be found on the included 1080p Blu-ray. Sadly, the amount of content involved is laughably limited. With only four features, three of which are under five minutes in length, there isn’t that much material to see. With a film centering on one of the most iconic villains in history, one would expect there to be a bit more effort put into telling audiences about how it was on set.
Full details on special features can be found below:
- Becoming Joker (1:23)
- Joker: Vision & Fury (22:25)
- Please Welcome… Joker! (2:44)
- Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos (3:04)
Final Grade: A-
While JOKER deals with a repulsive subject matter, it is nothing short of a beautiful 4K experience. The DC films may still be on a long path to recovery after its first few missteps, but it will all be worth it if it ends up giving us more films like this one.
JOKER is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.