2019 has been an interesting year for Persona 5. We’ve got the game’s main protagonist Joker as the first fighters pass character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a new Warriors game crossing over with Persona 5, and an updated re-release titled Persona 5 the Royal arriving in Japan this month (and the U.S. next year). And now there’s a Joker movie that’s out in theaters as of this time. Going in, I was assuming it was going to be phase 1 of a Persona 5 cinematic universe by giving each member of the Phantom Thieves their own solo films before the events of the game (I would kill for a Morgana solo film). What I saw instead was nothing but pure disappointment.
Aside from his sick dance moves and him being a social outcast who’s against corrupted society, Joker looks and acts nothing like how he is in the game. In fact, this whole movie has nothing to do with Persona 5 at all. It’s about a mentally ill clown who’s been treated like crud and failed a comedian, and he’s reached to a breaking point where he becomes a psychopathic criminal. There are no music tracks, references, or even character cameos from the game (not even ones from Persona 3 and 4).
After doing some research, I found out that this was never meant to be a Persona 5 movie to begin with. It’s based on a comic book series I never heard of called Batman, which is about some rich guy named Bruce Wayne dressing up as a bat to fight crime because his parents were shot dead by a criminal. This movie is suppose to be an origin story of one of his arch enemies who is also named Joker (but has “the” as part of his name). As a Persona fan, I am outraged that neither Hollywood nor the filmmakers have warned us that it wasn’t going to be our film, and because of this and how I’m not a fan of its gritty tone, I’m going to give this movie a thumbs down.
And that’s something I would say if I was an uncultured hermit who’s been living under a rock. So in all seriousness, the movie is fine as is. Joaquin Phoenix nails it at performing Arthur Fleck’s social awkwardness and his slow and creepy descent into becoming the Joker. I wouldn’t recommend taking your kids with you because it’s rated R for a reason (a couple of graphical violence being one of them), but like how parents will ignore the ESRB’s rating system, they’ll ignore the movie rating system and bring their kids to see it simply because it’s a Batman movie about the Joker.