It's official. The world of Todd Phillips' 2019 movie Joker is not England's cup of tea. The origin story for the Crime Prince of Crime traded in huge GCI action set pieces that are a staple of the comic book movie genre for an intimate look at violence on a personal level. And ironically, this grounded approach led to Joker becoming the most complained about movie in the UK last year, according to a new report published by the BBFC(British Board of Film Classification).
The report reveals that the board received 20 complaints about Joker regarding the movie's content. While some of the complainants wanted to have Joker banned altogether, others believed Joker was violent enough to warrant an '18 ages and above' rating. To this charge, the board offers the following defense:
"There are scenes of strong violence in the film that include stabbings and shootings, with accompanying bloody injury detail. They do not, however, dwell on the infliction of pain or injury in a manner that requires an 18."
The issue of violence in Joker had become a furious talking point the world over, again pointing to the fact that the small-scale acts of murder depicted in the film hit much closer to home than, say, watching Batman take out an entire warehouse full of criminals, or Thanos decimating half the population of the universe. Director Todd Phillips had spoken previously about creating a new kind of comic book movie action language that shows realistic consequences of violence:
"Isn't it a good thing to put real-world implications on violence?. Isn't that a good thing to take away the cartoon element of violence that we've become so immune to? So I was a little surprised when it turns into that direction, that it seems irresponsible because to me it seems actually very responsible to make it feel real and make it that weight."
Interestingly, 2008's The Dark Knight, another movie featuring an Oscar-winning Joker performance, also held the title of the most complained about movie of the year by the BBFC, with an impressive 364 total number of complaints from viewers regarding the acts of violence depicted, and its age 12 rating. Perhaps it speaks to the changing comic book movie culture that The Dark Knight's version of Joker inspired much more outrage than the one played by Joaquin Phoenix a decade later.
Aside from Joker, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Alita: Battle Angel, Bumblebee, and Shazam were also last year's Hollywood movies that came in for a share of the criticisms, which mainly had to do with audiences feeling the movies were not rated appropriately in relation to the amount of violence and adult themes they contained.
As the entertainment landscape changes, it will become more and more difficult for parents to control the kind of violence their children watch online on Youtube and other streaming platforms. How this will factor into the rules of censorship that lawmakers are aiming to slap on virtual content remains to be seen. This news comes to us from BBFC.