Why so serious? Heath Ledger’s Joker was something else.
We all remember seeing The Dark Knight for the first time. For me, I was working at a local ISP doing tech support and customer service that was in a building that shared a parking lot with a movie theatre. Opening day I my dad met me there, with a sack full of cheeseburgers, and we caught the first showing of The Dark Knight. Side note: The Dark Knight is the first Batman film to not have Batman in the title.
Little backstory on the cheeseburgers. When my dad was a kid he would spend his allowance on a comic book or two ($0.12 each), 2 cheeseburgers ($0.10 each) and a movie ($0.50) with popcorn ($.20). Anything left over he would spend on more comics and candy. So when we would go to movies he would grab us some cheeseburgers, we would get popcorn and soda and enjoy whatever flick we decided to go see.
As you know (or at least you should if you’ve listened to a few episodes of Spoiler Country) my dad was a big time comic book nerd and collector his entire life, so we would go see the movies as they came out back when he was still around. Granted, back in he early 2000’s it was only a hand-full a year not multiple from various studios, so seeing them all was pretty easy.
I remember his comments on Heath prior to seeing the film. Commenting about this pretty boy was our follow up from the 1989 Jack Nicholson version of the Joker? And it was a far cry from Cesar Romero on Batman ’66. He was optimistic though because he loved Batman Begins so he had faith in Christopher Nolan.
For me personally I figured Heath would be great, simply because I loved him in A Nights Tale, a movie I only went to go see because it had a trailer for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within before it. turns out it was a great movie with Joker and Vision teaming up with Wash to change his stars.
Prior to seeing the film we debated on how it would be, and talked about what could have been had Ledger not tragically passed. We talked about what we suspected was a two part movie with Joker and Two-Face where in the third film Two-Face would be the main villain and the two films would have been one big story. Sadly we were wrong on this plot point, but oh well.
So how was Heath as the Joker?
I mean I don’t think I REALLY need to answer that one, this movie came out in 2008 and his performance is generally regarded as one of the greatest performances in a comic book film ever. He created a new vision of the joker for us and gave us exactly what we needed to see in the Joker.
To say the very least, this is a Joker movie and not a Batman movie.
Yes, Batman is the lead character but really Heath owns this movie. Yes I know that a lot of the performances in this movie are amazing. Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face is great, the special effects are awesome on him. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon is perfect, I have always loved his portrayal. Christian Bale and Michael Caine are the real dynamic duo as Batman and Alfred.
But even given how great their performances are, Ledger’s really shines above them all. Do we look at it so highly BECAUSE he died before the release so we all want it to be great? Yeah, probably. I mean a death before the release of a major movie is an amazing marketing tactic, though not recommended. (bad joke, I KNOW)
The point is I recently watched this movie again and his performance is still everything I want out of a Joker on screen. The only negative thing I can say about this version of the character are people cosplaying as the character and it being over played. I KNOW I should just be happy people are enjoying a character that I enjoy. I KNOW.
With the new Joker movie with Joaquin Phoenix we will get a completely new take on the character. Will it be a different interpretation like we got with Jared Leto in Suicide Squad? Will it be reminiscent of Ledger? Or something new? We will find out.
Listen to us talk about all the Jokers and the history of the character on our Episode: Joker – A Brief History.
For me, Ledger will probably always been my favorite Joker, though I have enjoyed ever iteration of the character we’ve seen in some way.