Joker early reviews: 'Dark, disturbing, brutal,' and an Oscar contender

Could Joaquin Phoenix win an Academy Award for his role as the Clown Prince of Crime?

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

No joke: Even though the upcoming Joker movie won't hit theaters until October, some lucky viewers have already seen it. The film got a showing at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, and early reactions are now out.

Joaquin Phoenix plays the character, best known as a legendary Batman villain, in an R-rated take on how a failed stand-up comedian morphed into the Clown Prince of Crime. And some of those who've seen the film already are citing Phoenix as a potential Academy Award winner.

Here's what early viewers are saying.

Watch this: Joker character coming to life in final trailer

'The movie the Joker would want'

"It's going to turn the world upside down and make us all hysterical in the process. For better or worse, it's exactly the movie the Joker would want."  --David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Is the world ready?

"There will be before Joker. And there will be after Joker. Nothing will be the same after, we'll be living in a whole new world. That's not even hyperbole, just the truth. I don't know if the world is ready for this movie. Or maybe it is? We'll find out soon enough. There's no stopping it now. I can't believe it exists. But it does, and it's coming."  --Alex Billington, FirstShowing.net

Phoenix is 'so damn good'

"Joker is a bold, bodacious love letter to Scorsese's The King of Comedy, told through the lens of DC's most iconic villain. Dark, disturbing, brutal and sad, it's about an abused man who doesn't start living until he's dead inside. Joaquin Phoenix is so damn good."  --Erik Davis, Fandango

Get ready to debate it for years

"Featuring a riveting, fully realized and Oscar-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix, Joker would work just as well as an engrossing character study without any of its DC Comics trappings; that it just so happens to be a brilliant Batman-universe movie is icing on the Batfan cake. You will likely leave Joker feeling like I did: unsettled and ready to debate the film for years to come."  --Jim Vejvoda, IGN

Joker opens worldwide on Oct. 4

The Joker: See all the actors who've played the DC Comics villain

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