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Posts Tagged ‘The Joker’

I Watched It Again Last Night, And…

January 8th, 2009 No comments

Heath Ledger is no longer my fourth favorite Joker. That’s because I no longer accept that the character he plays is, in any substantive way, the Joker.

Categories: Movies Tags: ,

Joker, Joker, Joker

July 20th, 2008 No comments

Folks are all in a lather over The Dark Knight. Over on the Invincible Super-Blog, comics blogger extraordinaire Chris Sims sums it up with a two-word review: “Fucking Awesome.” I don’t intend to dispute that, but I do take issue with the sentiment expressed by one of those who commented on his post:

But Ledger is the joker (sic). Not the most convincing joker, not the definitive joker, not even the best joker. He just simply is the joker.

No, this is the Joker.

And this is the Joker.

And this is most certainly the Joker.

I don’t know what this is…

…but it’s not the Joker.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I am guilty of the sin of hypocrisy, as I have regularly railed against those who would whine that Spider-Man shouldn’t have organic webshooters or that Bumblebee should be a Volkswagen, yet I would myself get my panties in a bunch about Heath Ledger not being a legitimate Joker. I’m also guilty of pretending to be a Catholic, but hear me out anyway.

The trademark of the Joker isn’t his white skin, green hair or poor dress sense, but his rictus grin. His look was originally based on Conrad Veidt’s makeup in the silent film The Man Who Laughs. Like Veidt’s character, the Joker’s mouth is unnaturally wide and permanently frozen in a parody of amusement. And his preferred method of murder is a lethal toxin that draws up the lips in a similar mocking grimace.

So, right off the bat I’ve got a problem with Ledger’s Joker, whose smile is merely suggested by facial scarring and a wide smear of red makeup, and who never once leaves his victims laughing to death. I could accept it as a valid alternate-universe interpretation of the character–the film equivalent of one of DC Comics’ Elseworlds books–but the real deal?

The Joker, as portrayed in The Dark Knight, is supposed to be an avatar of anarchy. Yet his plans are intricate and meticulous; he spends most of the film four steps ahead of everyone. His actions aren’t random or mercurial, they’re thought through and designed to make a point. Since when does The Joker have a point?

Robbing banks and knifing people is beneath him. This is a character who once attempted to copyright fish. The Joker is motivated by irrationality and a sick sense of humor. By contrast, the villain seen in The Dark Knight rarely goes for a laugh. (Admittedly, the “faulty detonator” scene was pretty funny, and the flaming fire truck was a nice visual gag. But those were exceptions.)

That’s not to say that the film is bad. Honestly, it’s got an awful lot going for it, including a well-crafted plot that if anything is perhaps a bit overdeveloped. Its themes are convincingly followed through. The pacing of individual scenes is excellent, even though the overall movie is too long. (Two-Face enters the story very late. I would’ve cut the entire subplot about the investigator who attempts to reveal Batman’s identity, which is never fully resolved. It’s also redundant, as the Joker’s attempt to coerce ordinary people to become murderers is repeated more effectively later on.)

The Dark Knight does an awful lot right, including Two-Face’s reliance on random chance and the curious relationship between Batman and the Joker, eternally locked in combat yet each unwilling to kill the other. Contrast to Tim Burton’s film, which had Bats launching air-to-ground missiles at the Joker’s head.

It also had several punch-the-air moments, and an uplifting, inspirational scene that was welcome if oddly out-of-place in what was otherwise an unrelenting orgy of bullets to the head. (I mean, Jesus, wasn’t there any better plan for luring the Joker into the open than running a gauntlet that saw dozens of cops butchered?)

But all this talk of an Oscar for Heath Ledger? Really? He was good enough, I guess, but I don’t see what’s so spectacular about the performance. Most of the time, I thought he was channeling Christian Slater.

Must be the laughing gas.

Disturbing Things I Found In My Cereal Box

June 9th, 2008 No comments

Number one in a one-part series:

Categories: Weird Tags: ,