Joker may be the most profitable comic book movie in history — which, of course, isn’t the same as being its highest grosser, though netting over a billion worldwide is nothing to sneeze at — but it’s not exactly a critical juggernaut. Over at Rotten Tomatoes the gritty (and soon to be sequelized) spin-off has a so-so 69 percent, with many critics saying it pales in comparison to its most obvious influences, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, both classics by noted superhero movie hater Martin Scorsese.
Well, at least one major auteur is a big fan: As per IndieWire, no less than Michael Mann — of Thief, The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, and the film version of Miami Vice — wrote director Todd Phillips, star Joaquin Phoenix, and crew a love letter, heaping praise upon the hit.
Mann kicks off his letter bluntly: “I love this movie.” He continues:
“I think it’s brilliant and not only Todd’s best film but it’s exciting because it’s on a frontier. And that’s usually where very good things happen. Todd and Scott [Silver’s] screenplay has that relevance that occurs when work is authentic and not derivative. We find Arthur disturbing and poignant simultaneously. He’s both child victim and adult perpetrator. Both are true, as is the case with most schizophrenics. That both are true is uncomfortable. We find ourselves in a fugue state. It’s counterpoint. It’s why Arthur and the film’s impact sustains so strongly in memory. To build on all of this, and for Joaquin, Todd, and Scott, to impact upon on this powerfully is a difficult accomplishment. Congratulations, Todd!”
Why did Mann feel compelled to pipe up about his Joker love? After reaching out to Phillips, the director was supposed to moderate a discussion after a private screening of the film. Scheduling conflicts got in the way, but his letter wound up read by replacement moderator Scott Cooper (of Hostiles and Out of the Furnace).
It’s praise from Caesar himself, though it’s worth pointing out that Mann has been struggling to make films of his own over the last decade (aside from the underrated Blackhat), and that the current number one movie in America, Ford v Ferrari, began as his project before changing hands. Perhaps Todd Phillips can pay it forward.