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Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker. | Warner Bros.

The stand-alone R-rated origin story for Batman’s nemesis, starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips, won awards and praise while also igniting a firestorm of controversy.

Joker, a stand-alone origin story for Batman’s psychotic arch-nemesis, was already one of the most-reviled and most-defended movies of 2019 weeks before its October 3 release. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by the Hangover trilogy’s Todd Phillips, Joker was deemed dangerous by its most vocal critics, akin to an incel training manual. To some of the character’s and movie’s fans, those critical reviews and negative reactions were just another example of social justice warrior overreach.

Still, the movie garnered plaudits, with largely middling-to-positive reviews, and it won the prestigious Golden Lion, the Venice Film Festival’s top prize.

Before the movie was released, Joker’s studio Warner Bros. and family members of those killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting were in conversation over the possible danger the movie poses to moviegoers. Others worried about the character’s most toxic fans threatening audiences on opening weekend.

But its opening weekend was relatively calm. The movie broke records, becoming the biggest October opening of all time at $93.5 million. Joker now boasts the fourth biggest opening for an R-rated film in history. And its strong showing suggests more gritty stand-alone movies about comic book villains are likely to loom in the future.

Author: Alissa Wilkinson

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