And then the trailers landed and who-ee the takes were hot!
And then the film debuted at a festival and the hub-ub was (at least briefly) deafening and I saw my interest levels rise a little more. I may love and I may hate Joker when I do eventually see it, but I've got to say it is refreshing for the polarizing effect of a comic book movie to have just about nothing to do with comic book fidelity and I'm tantalized a lot more by the prospect of having a big reaction (good or bad) to it than the shrug most comic book movies elicit from me.
I get that this might not be your preferred tone or flavor for the material and I have no problem with your disinterest or frustration if that's the case. The good news for everybody who's a fan of Batman is that it's such a fuckin' cultural juggernaut with so many differently flavored takes across so many mediums reaching back decades and showing no sign of slowing down that there is and will be plenty of material of the flavor that you do prefer available.
But I've seen some takes that bother me. Takes that put forth an argument I find disturbing. Namely that making an effort to humanize this character is not only not worth it, but potentially dangerous and artistically irresponsible.
They are human and what they do is monstrous.
How can we reconcile that? How can we have anything in common with a monster? If we don't have anything in common with monsters then we don't have to be concerned about our own souls.
Every time I hear a story of an amazing human achievement or heroism or compassion it thrills me because I have something in common (humanity) with the hero. Likewise, every true story of an awful crime that I hear hits me hard because I know that I have something in common with the perpetrator.
When I hear those awful stories they bother me and I am tempted to shrug their behavior off as something un-human. That would be comforting. But inhumanity in action or attitude is exceedingly common in people. It's extremely common in me.
I'm always looking for an excuse to dehumanize victims of crime/poverty/injustice/disease/natural disaster because it's overwhelming to have to consider all the suffering that happens in the world, but when I discount the suffering of real human beings just to achieve some minor comfort, some status, or some little goal then I have engaged in intellectual inhumanity and the difference between thinking of people as less than human and treating them that way means crossing an awfully thin line.
The other side of that line is where monsters live and operate.
I love a thriller and I don't need to know how every monster got to be that way, but when I write I'm always looking for the answer (even if it's not on the page) because I don't want to become one. I may or may not do a good job of it, but it's always part of the work for me.
I've got no problem if you see a trailer for a movie and can tell right off that it's not to your liking, and I've got no problem if you see an actual movie and think that it sucked, but the idea of telling an artist that they shouldn't try to humanize a character - not because it's going to be a bad choice for a particular project, but because any character who would do that kind of thing shouldn't be humanized - it's a pretty wrong-headed take.
If it's something that people do then it is human. "Humanizing" the criminal doesn't lessen the horror of the crime because it's relatable. The relatability of the terrible act is where the horror truly lies.
To which I immediately reply - motherfucker, then who should he try to redeem?
Redemption is the shit.
The good and necessary shit.
Otherwise we're all fucked. All. Everybody. Me first, but you too.
When I was a kid I thought I was a pretty good guy (and I was comparatively), but the older I got the more I realized that my actions and thoughts and instincts run more or less completely perpendicular to my ideals. I fail constantly to be who I think I should be, nevermind thinking correctly who I should be. I need to be redeemed annually, weekly and daily, probably hourly. I make too many mistakes. If there's no improving, no hope for course correction or overpowering grace in the world then a swift and merciful death is the best hope for everybody.
Which isn't to say it's always (or often, or regularly) artistically successful. Fuuuuuuuuck no. If the complaint is that a trope or plot point in a character's humanizing or redemption is kinda worn out or poorly utilized, that's absolutely legit. I do hate it when it's done badly, cheaply, falsely. And please forgive me personally for the times that I fail to humanize or redeem characters in a satisfying way - you have my blessing not to read my stuff. There are people who do it better than I can and you are encouraged to go read them.
Joker may do it badly (jury's out - I haven't seen it yet). Tarantino may do it badly (keep having the conversations, everybody). But I reject the idea that it shouldn't be attempted.