Joker Blu-ray and Special Features (Review)

Jan 7, 2020

Joker (2019)
Warner Bros

Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen & Leigh Gill.

It seems as if the phenomenal success of Todd Phillip’s take on the iconic DC villain isn’t about to stop anytime soon. The most profitable comic book movie of all time scooped two Golden Globes awards last night (Sunday 5 Jan), with star Joaquin Phoenix winning Best Actor in a Drama and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir picking up Best Original Score. With the DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray release just around the corner, do the special features add an extra dimension to this haunting film? Well, if you willing to shell out a little extra for the Blu-ray and Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray formats, then yes!

For such a critically well received (on the whole) film, praised for it’s outstanding performances, original score, set production, costume design and homage to Martin Scorsese’s legendary films, I kind of expected a few more documentaries on the technical aspects of the film, particularly how they brought the beautifully mournful score to life. I’m also a little bit of a sucker for an outtakes/bloopers reel and deleted scenes, but I really don’t think that would fit the tone of the film!

Here’s the list of the special features for the Blu-ray/4K editions:

  • Joker: Vision & Fury (23 min)
  • Becoming Joker (1 min 24)
  • Please Welcome… Joker! (2 min 43)
  • Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos (3 min 3)

And for the DVD edition you simply get Please Welcome… Joker!

The main featurette, titled ‘Vision & Fury’ is a fascinating interview with cast and creators and definitely the main draw for those who want to find out more about the creative process of getting the script to screen. Featuring insight from director and writer Todd Phillips, producer Bradley Cooper, stars Joaquin Phoenix and Zazie Beetz on bringing Arthur and the characters to life. The technical aspects of the film were also explored with production designer Mark Friedberg, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir and costume designer Mark Bridges.

Todd Phillips discussed his inspiration for the film in the depth, commenting: “I just love bad guys. It’s fun to explore why is he like that and what made him like that,” explicitly stating that primarily is the goal of the film, not this gigantic statement on the World today. Interestingly he noted that he wrote the character study for a year, with only Joaquin Phoenix in mind, departing from the comic book material as he wanted to make something that felt grounded in reality. Perhaps most controversially he noted that this Joker might not be the Joker we know, this is just one version of an origin that this guy is recounting in a mental institution. He might not even be a reliable narrator

From a technical point of view, it was fascinating diving into the geography of the film, with Friedberg and Phillips noting they wanted to remove the film from anything you know in New York, but would probably set it around 1981. They distinguished each of the neighbourhoods in the film by the architect and amount of garbage! They even created a transit map of their Gotham which can be seen on the subway scenes, predominantly filming in the Bronz, Brooklyn and Newark.

Also revealed was the interesting fact that the iconic dancing scene was actually filmed really on in the shoot, around 2-3 weeks in, with Phoenix recounting him and Phillips looking for a defining moment for the character’s transformation. It wasn’t until Phillip’s played Hildur Guðnadóttir’s cello score that Phoenix came up with the movement in the transformative scene.

The shorter featurettes on the other hand were a little disappointing in comparison, with the shortest of the bunch tallying in at a mere 1 minute 24 seconds.

Becoming Joker featured an interesting film reel of wardrobe tests with Joaquin Phoenix, soundtracked by the haunting yet captivating score of Hildur Guðnadóttir. It’s a fascinating dive into Phoenix practising the movements, dances and expressions of Arthur Fleck and the Joker, literally transforming before our eyes.

A Chronicle of Chaos features a whole video of stills from the film chronicling Arthur’s tale and his descent into madness and chaos, once again set to the chilling score. (If I were you I’d just watch the film instead!)

And finally, Please Welcome, Joker! is an interview with director Todd Phillips as he talks about working with Joaquin Phoenix and how he would do so many variations on one scene. He noted “there’s 18 million versions of this movie just based on how differently he’d do things every time” showing around eleven different takes on the Joker’s introduction on the Late Night show with Murray Franklin.

Overall, other than ‘Vision & Fury’, I was a little disappointed with the special features, as it would have been great to see a documentary exploring the history of the character, the comic book connections and any Easter Eggs. However the insight from the creative team in the 22 minute documentary was fascinating, so if you’re a huge fan of the film and want to know more, I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy.

Joker is out on DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray from 7 January in the US and 10 February in the UK.