It generated Oscar buzz before it was even released and won the coveted Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.

But does Joker — starring Joaquin Phoenix as the maniacal, Batman villain — live up to all the hype?

Well, not everyone seems to think so. The Todd Phillips-directed blockbuster has been branded "muddled", "wildly boring" and the "most disappointing movie of the year", with the New York Times, Guardian and Slate among the critics who were less than impressed.

On the flip side, the movie was praised by Empire and Variety, which called it "astonishing" and a "knockout", as well as drawing a 69 per cent rating on viewer review site, Rotten Tomatoes. Audience members also gave it mostly positive reviews so far on crowd critic site, Metacritic, after it was released globally, news.com.au reports.

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The New York Times described Joker as an "empty, foggy exercise in second-hand style", adding it was "afraid of its own shadow, or at least of the faintest shadow of any actual relevance"

Hollywood industry site Variety called it a
Hollywood industry site Variety called it a "hypnotically perverse, ghoulishly grippingly urban-nightmare comic fantasia". Photo / AP

called it a "bad movie, yes: It's predictable, clichéd, deeply derivative of other, better movies, and overwritten to the point of self-parody". The respected news site went so far as to brand it "boring", "muddled" and "monotonous".

The Guardian simply called it the "most disappointing movie of the year".

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But Hollywood industry site Variety called it a "neo-Taxi Driver knockout" and praised Phoenix's performance as "astonishing" and the movie overall as a "hypnotically perverse, ghoulishly grippingly urban-nightmare comic fantasia".

Empire gave it five stars and said it was "bold, devastating and utterly beautiful", saying Phoenix and director Phillips had "not just reimagined one of the most iconic villains in cinema history, but reimagined the comic book movie itself".

In the wake of its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August, The Hollywood Reporter was also positive, describing the big budget movie as "riveting" and "distinctively edgy".

The New York Times described Joker as an
The New York Times described Joker as an "empty, foggy exercise in second-hand style". Photo / AP

Joker is expected to rake in more than US$80 million ($127m) at the US box office on its opening weekend.

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The movie has drawn heavy criticism for its depiction of violence, in the wake of 2012 shootings in Colorado at a screening of another Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. This has led some US cities to deploy uniform and undercover police to Joker screenings.

Phoenix famously walked out of an interview with Britain's The Telegraph when asked if the film would "end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it's about".

Phoenix replied, "Why? Why would you …? No, no," before leaving the room.

Speaking to SFX, Phoenix said violence scenes in Joker were "a little more visceral and raw" than other comic book movies, and that he "didn't have any hesitation about it".

Phoenix famously walked out of an interview with Britain's The Telegraph when asked if the film would
Phoenix famously walked out of an interview with Britain's The Telegraph when asked if the film would "end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it's about". Photo / AP

Phoenix is the latest critically acclaimed actor to portray the Joker — the late Heath Ledger famously won a posthumous Oscar for his performance in 2008's The Dark Knight, while Academy Award-winner Jack Nicholson starred as the comic villain in 1989's Batman.

Oscar-winner Jared Leto played the Joker in 2016's Suicide Squad, though the movie was a critical flop.

Joker is out in cinemas in New Zealand now.