From the moment it was announced that Heath Ledger would be playing the Joker in The Dark Knight, people were in a frenzy. Both sides were shouting, whether you were the one who said you were excited to see what Heath could do or the side that claimed Jack Nicholson was the epitome of the Joker forever, you had SOMETHING to say.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but there was a definitive buzz around the coffee shops as to whose portrayal would be better. So what was the end result? A movie so dark that as good as it was, I had a hard time getting through it. The new Batman series has taken on a whole new meaning for just how warped and menacing these comic book based villains can be.
If that’s what you were looking for, Heath Ledger provided the most menacing and psychotic performance of a lifetime. As opposed to seeing him as a mere criminal who develops a grudge against Batman for scarring him, as written in the original Batman movie, the new Joker is severely warped long before we meet him.
His laugh, though not the cliched “muah ah ah ah” sound of most villains, sent a chill down my spine every time I heard it. It was the sound of a serial killer, but not just any serial killer, a completely psychotic one. Ledger played a Joker with no morals, no remorse, no ties to anything that would make him human; thus making him one of the most dangerous villains I’ve ever seen.
I grew up on the original Batman movies with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and until I actually saw The Dark Knight, Nicholson WAS the Joker to me – a little crazy, a little sneaky, and always smooth. Nicholson’s performance spoke perfectly to the overall theme of the original Batman movies: a little serious, a little dark, but always a little corny.
There’s nothing wrong with this at all. The original stayed truer to a comic book feel than the recent releases, but that was sort of the point of them. The new Batman movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, were supposed to take a closer, more sinister, look at Bruce Wayne and how he came to be. In order to so effectively, you have to have some equally sinister villains to match his psyche.
Both performances of the Joker by Ledger and Nicholson were fantastic, by two great actors, but if I had to choose…Ledger’s Joker is the one I would say to be better. His villain is the one I would be afraid to be anywhere near. And after all, isn’t that the whole point of a villain?