The “Joker” movie is released in the UK on the 4th of October and debuting to mixed cries of controversy and critical acclaim. The trailers have been tantalising, the awards have been prestigious and the anticipation is bubbling away like a fresh canister of Joker Venom.
For those who would rather forget every post-Nolan Batman project that has left the franchise gasping for credibility, now could finally be the time that DC moves out from the shadows cast by Bale, Ledger and the all-consuming Marvel universe.
Perhaps we can thank the likes of Ben Affleck and Jared Leto because without them dropping the reins on what has become a bolting horse Joaquin Phoenix might never have been given the breathing space to reprise a role that defined Heath Ledger’s career. That Joker, Ledger’s Joker, took the character to new heights, defined who the Joker might become and now we need to find out if Phoenix can take us there.
”Joker” and “The Dark Knight”
10 years ago, following Ledger’s performance would have been like limping into Woodstock, blindly navigating the stage through drifting smoke and the final distorted waves of “Hey Joe” with nothing but an untuned banjo to hide your mediocrity.
Time and a series of catastrophic disappointments have given Phoenix the opportunity to present the most infamous bad guy in comic book history to an audience that is finally willing to open its mind to the reprisal.
Whilst “Joker” has already won big at the Venice Film Festival it has also received heavy criticism for gun-related violence, integral to a plot that allowed director Todd Phillips to take home the coveted Golden Lion award.
October the 30th, 2012 was one of many dark days for America, one in a terrifying long list of mass shootings. This one took place in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the film “The Dark Knight”. 10 people died that night and there is a fear amongst state authorities that a similar event might occur with the release of a film that embellishes many of the themes and ideas that were developed in the 2nd of Nolan’s trilogy.
Warner Brothers have been quick to dismiss any suggestion that they endorse the violence in the film, pointing out the this is a work of fiction and not a representation of reality or a manifesto for anarchy. The movie studio might not have met the requests that friends and family of the victims of the Aurora shooting have asked for: to pledge their resistance of support to any politicians with links to the NRA, but they have make the following statement:
“Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues.”
The Joker’s Origins
Whatever the backstory behind the release, it is the background of the character himself that I really want to discuss. As origin stories go, this is one that has been in the making now for nearly 80 years and there is more than one direction that the film could go in.
It is likely that the great Alan Moore will be the compass on which Todd Phillips guides his crew but that guidance is likely to be an ethos opposed to a clear direction. “Batman: The Killing Joke” is just one of the comic book masterpieces credited to Moore, a graphic novel that tries to explain who the Joker is and where he comes from. Phillips will likely tap into the tragedy of that story but he is unlikely to replicate it.
The Red Hood was first mentioned in DC comics all the way back in 1951 and was originally a master criminal who had a run-in with Batman. In that comic, the Red Hood falls into a vat of acid and is physically transformed into the Joker. When Moore revised the character he went for something much more human. Jack Napier was a husband, an expectant father and a failing stand-up comic who worked in a chemical plant. He fell in with the wrong crowd so that he could pay a few bills and before he knew it he was in a gang, using the moniker of the Red Hood and had been established as the pasty his criminal friends needed to get away with their crimes.
His wife and unborn child die in a fire, he is stitched up by his new colleagues and he falls into a vat of acid. These catastrophic events all happen in just one day. One day in which everything that could go wrong does go wrong and The Red Hood, or Jack Napier, the Joker, Arthur or whoever you want to call him, snaps. As he said himself whilst hanging from the edge of a tall building, held in Batman’s grip:
“Madness is a little like gravity, all it takes is a little push!”
The Joker that Nolan gave us is one who wanted to burn the world down around him. He is not motivated by base desires like greed or lust. He is not looking for justice, redemption or even revenge. Nolan’s Joker wants everyone around him to feel what he felt on the worst day of his life.
Having experienced ruinous tragedy in a short space of time the Joker embraces nihilism, and instead of screaming into the void he laughs at the absurdity of anyone taking anything seriously. Life becomes a game in which the Joker invites us over to his side, one where consequence is inconsequential.
Phillips will take us there, but the trailers suggest that the path that the path he carves will be one that Joker has not walked before. For a start, he is not called Jack, he is called Arthur and there doesn’t appear to be a family waiting for him at home. It has also been revealed that this film is a stand alone, one that is not connected with the current DC universe. Phoenix will be taking on a new Joker, one we haven’t seen before. One that allows Phoenix to take his Joker and run, without having to tie himself down series of movies and sully himself with the stigma of an ailing franchise.
This is not something that any of us should be surprised by. In Moore’s “Batman: The Killing Joke” everything we are told can be undone by one single line:
“If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice.”
This single declaration tells us that everything Moore has written could be a lie, one that the Joker has used to elicit the sympathy he needs from his audience so he can laugh even harder as he commits those crimes that make our skin crawl.
The clincher in all this comes from the relatively recent thread within the DC comics. One where it has been revealed that there have always been 3 Jokers. This way the stars can align in any way that Phillips wants them to.
If that is the case, if this is a Joker that we have never seen before then where does it leave us? What is its significance if it appears that it will have no relevance outside of the DC Universe? For me, that is precisely where the relevance does lie. We are dominated by superhero mega-franchises, filled with sprawling characters, story lines and battles, all at epic expense. What I like about this version is that I can carry all the lore with me into that screening and dip into it as I could with any other movie. But what should make “Joker” stand out from the multiplex is that is it an exploration of character, one that can begin and end in one sitting but will remain with us long after we have stepped out of the foyer and back into reality. One that doesn’t have De Niro playing a talk show host just because it is Robert De Niro, but because this film will have more in common with “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy” than it will any Marvel or DC movie being released today.
Joker, the Super Villain
One thing that remains consistent throughout the different versions of the Joker is his philosophy. Whilst the motive might change, even when he ruined the best laid plans of Adam West’s Batman, he was an agent of chaos.
The Joker is the ultimate bad guy. He has no superpowers but he holds our attention more than just about any other super villain. He is who is because he has had to evolve into that super villain. Think of him as a supergerm that has survived the onslaught of repeated does of anti-biotics. Batman makes the Joker the ultimate bad guy because as crime fighters go, the Dark Knight is best there is.
DC tried to kill off The Joker in the first edition, believing that their heroes had to win out at all costs. It wasn’t long before the writers realised their mistake and brought the Joker back, as they would, time and time again because Batman needs the Joker as much as the Joker needs Batman.
In the Tim Burton film, Jack Nicholson’s Joker kills Bruce Wayne’s parents and sets him off on his path towards becoming the Batman. In the Nolan version Ledger’s Joker tells Batman, “You complete me.” Before he draws direct allusions to their almost symbiotic relationship:
“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”
Order and chaos existing together and at the centre sits Two Face, the beacon of hope for Gotham who the Joker tries to drag down to his level. Harvey Dent becomes neither one nor the other, and instead opts out of morality and allows fate to make his choices with the toss of a coin.
Batman won’t be in the new film, but Bruce Wayne will. He will be a child and will meet Arthur Fleck. What happens between the two is anyone’s guess but ultimately this is a story about a man who struggles with social conventions. He struggles to be a success in a world that makes no sense to him. “Joker” will be a classic exploration of alienation and his response will be to alienate everyone by removing those conventions and pouring chaos out into the streets.
The Joker would rather burn a pile of money than become rich because the economy is a construct that can be torn down. He would rather make money useless than become part of the system he wants to drag to its knees.
The Joker and Slots
The original Joker in first edition of DC comics is said to have been based on the lead character in a silent movie called “The Man Who Laughed”, a man with his face permanently twisted into a disturbing smile. The character also based on the jokers that come in a deck of cards.
This is what will define our list of slot games for the week. There are countless numbers of slot games out there that have jokers in them, so to narrow things down I will include slots that have the word Joker in the title.
A word of warning is that there are a lot of not very good slot games with Joker in the title, but I have managed to ensure that any of the slots that I include received a minimum of 6 out of 10 and that there are also some excellent slots in list too.
If you are lucky enough to find a casino that is offing Mega Joker then you, quite simply, have to play this Net Entertainment slot. Don’t be fooled by how awful it looks, which is essentially just a fruit machine from a pub showed onto your computer screen. Features are also non-existent, so why would anyone want to play it? Well, look no further than the house edge. At just over 1% this slot is offering tremendous value for money and might actually be the best value for money slot I have ever seen. Sure, it will be boring but you have chance of long term success on this slot than just about any other.
Play the Demo here
Joker Pro is a Net Entertainment slot that makes it onto this list because it offers some solid entertainment. It looks decent, offering decent value for money and comes with a few interesting features. You get Re-Spins, an instant Bonus and Wilds.
Play the demo here
Joker Strike is all about the Hi Roller Mode. If you don’t want to play in High Roller Mode then you need to play a different slot because without it this is an average slot and with it this is an exceptional one. We loved this Quickspin slot when we reviewed it, awarding Joker Strike full marks, all because of Hi Roller Mode.
Play the demo here
The Inferno Joker slot is probably the most recent one to make it onto the list. I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by this one when it came out but I‘m including it because it looks good and it has a few of those features that make it a decent Play ‘n Go slot.
Play the demo here
Reel Joker is the first every Reel NRG slot to make it onto any of our lists but it is also one that has to come with a massive warning sticker. In order make the most out of this slot you need to bet big. If you don’t you won’t trigger the key feature and will be playing at a significant disadvantage. You can’t afford to do so then leave this slot well alone.
Play the demo here
Joker Stacks comes with everything we have grown to expect from iSoftBet. The slot, despite the basic theme, looks great and the features are what you would want from any slot. You get Free Spins, Wilds and Stacked Wilds. The house edge is offering excellent value for money, which allows this slot to stand out from the joker pack.
Play the demo here
Mystery Joker is a certain type of Joker themed slot. If I was to tell you that the paytable is only on screen then those of you who have played a few slots in your time will know what I mean. There isn’t a whole lot going on but what this slot is, is steady and reliable. You get your Wilds and you get your Free Spins and you get a reasonable house edge.
Play the demo here
This is a 3-reeler of a slot that does a few simple things rather well. You don’t get Free Spins but what you do get are re-spins that keep going until you win. You also get Wilds and a Multiplier. The slot is a standard looking one but does offer some good value for money.
Play the demo here
Fruits and Jokers: 100 Lines
I have rarely been kind about this particular brand of slot and so placing this Playson game on a top 10 list might come as a surprise. However, needless to say, this slot is by far the best in the Playson catalogue of fruits, stars and jokers. It is still nothing mind-blowing but you do get Wilds, Scatters and a competitive house edge. There is clearly something about these slots that people like, otherwise Playson wouldn’t keep making them.
Play the demo here
I suspect that software developers have ran out of ideas for Joker based slots. But that is OK so long as they take the Yggdrasil approach, which in this instance is to ramp the house edge right down to 2% and be done with just about anything else. This should be an average slot, but value for money is so good that we rated this an impressive 9 out of 10 when it was first released. Be aware that the only way you can access that 2% house edge is to always active Jokerizer Mode when you land a winning combination, otherwise you are playing at a huge disadvantage.
Play the demo here
However, there are some really good slots on this list. In fact, going by our scoring there are some excellent slots on this list. Something interesting appears when you group all those excellent Joker themed slots together. You begin to notice that what makes them good is also what makes them slightly dangerous. The slots we rated 9 or 10 all come with a caveat. They all come with a warning that you need to risk more to make the most out of them. For your average slot player, this is unlikely to be a possibility. How many of us can truly afford to play at maximum stakes to drop the house edge by 2%?
More risk doesn’t guarantee more reward and can mean that you lose your money quickly. So be very careful if you choose to play these sorts of slots.
The one exception to this is Mega Joker. A 1.1% house edge, no tricks, no hidden agenda, just exceptional value for money.
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