Joker 4K Ultra HD

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Todd Phillips’ dramatic story about the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime arrives on 4K UHD and blu-ray this week, but is the home release worth picking up? Check out my review of this week’s new release to find out!

The Movie

The basics of the Joker movie is fairly straightforward, following Arthur Fleck’s descent into homicidal anarchy. We see him as a struggling stand-up, who, after being relentlessly teased/attacked, finally snaps. Couple this with going off of his medication (which ties into a bigger theme about the wealthy cutting out necessary services) and there’s a recipe for disaster. After unwittingly setting off civil unrest and a slew of protests, Arthur finds himself in the limelight he’s been craving.

From the film’s initial announcement, many have wondered about the need for a Joker Origin story. After all, part of the villain’s appeal in the Batman lore is how much we DON’T know about him. His backstory has always been in flux, constantly changing. This unknowable quality is what makes him so terrifying as he could literally be anyone.

With this is mind, Joker doesn’t seek to tell the “definitive” story of the Joker. In fact, it actually leaves quite a bit of wiggle room for things to be nebulous once more. On the whole, it’s an engaging film with a stellar performance from Joaquin Phoenix. It features some decidedly problematic elements (mental illness is not treated kindly here), but still offers an interesting look at one of Batman’s more notorious villains.

The problem for me, however, is that the film is just...Okay. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and never felt bored while watching. The cinematography is great and the performances suck you in almost immediately. By the time the credits rolled, however, I didn’t feel much about it one way or another. It has a lot to say, but can’t seem to decide where it wants to go either.

Ultimately I found myself wondering how the discourse evolved around this film. It’s not the most problematic film out there, but neither is it the second coming of Taxi Driver as some would have you believe. I enjoyed it while watching, but I’m not sold on whether or not I’ll pop it in the player again. By and large, however, this is a film where it feels like you have to watch to see where you land.

Sight and Sound

The 4K Ultra HD transfer on Joker is incredibly sleek and crisp. The image is clear, making the slums of Gotham City pop with a visceral quality. The darks are deep without crushing, which is great considering how much the film relies on the darker contrast in its image. Even in the grungy hallways and subways, everything stands out.

The sound quality is given equal attention. This isn’t a traditional comic book movie with oodles of action sequences. Instead it’s a more personal drama, but the sound design makes Gotham come alive. Dialog is always given the right priority, even when action does happen, making for a technically impressive 4K transfer.

The Special Features

The Joker 4K Ultra HD release comes with a digital copy insert of the film as well as a blu-ray copy of the film that includes these bonus features:

Joker: Vision & Fury

Becoming Joker

Please Welcome… Joker!

Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos

All in all, it’s a fairly spartan set of bonus features with three of these coming in at only 3 minutes or under. Hell, even the three minute one is a series of still images from the set, while the “Becoming Joker” is just a before and after look at Joaquin Phoenix becoming the titular character. “Vision & Fury” is a bit meatier, coming it at nearly half an hour and offering a solid look at the making of the film from conception to finished product. I enjoyed this quite a bit and wish the other featurettes had offered as much insight. As it is, it feels a bit sparse.

Editor review

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There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Joker, but by the time the credits rolled I didn't feel strongly about it one way or another. The 4K release brings impressive technical specs making it look gorgeous throughout, but the lack of bonus features feel a bit glaring. If you loved the film, there's no reason to pass on the 4K release (it's gorgeous), but if you haven't checked it out yet, I suggest a rental to see how you feel about it before making the purchase.
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