I saw the midnight premiere of Dark Knight on Thursday. Yes, four days after getting back from my weekend retreat where I had almost no sleep. This guy is smart. Anyway, I waited a day to see how the review – what I wanted to tell you - would shake out.
A day later, I’m still a little stuck.
See, this movie is fantastic. In fact, it will certainly garner some Oscar attention. But seeing Heath Ledger, and in light of his death, this movie has skyrocketed in the realm of must see. That being said, I didn’t want this to turn into a Heath Ledger tribute.
However, it’s darn near impossible not to.
Ledger, as Kevin Smith said, doesn’t play the Joker. He is the Joker. And I mean that. There are several times where you have to remind yourself that Ledger is in the role, he plays it so well.
More on that in a minute. As for the movie itself, it is a great drama/action film first, a comic bookmovie second. As the first did, it taps into the essence of who Batman and Bruce Wayne are – treating the film more about the Bruce Wayne character and how he is the catalyst for Batman rather than just go for the thrills of him in his suit (hear that Joel Schumacher?).
The movie is full of great acting, and, had it not been for Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, in the role of two-face, would’ve stealen the show. Speaking of which, I love Nolan’s treatment of two-face, especially his relationship with Batman. This is shown through the relationship between Commissioner Gordon, Batman and Dent.
Now, for Ledger. It’s no wonder he was twisted up at the end of this film. It’s not about his crimes in the film as much as it is the way in which he plays the role. From ticks, limps, speech and an overall look in his eye, Ledger, the person, is gone. He’s not there. And to do that had to be hell. In fact, Jack Nicholson often alluded to the fact that he warned Ledger about it – including here in London on the day Ledger died.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’re left trying to remember Heath Ledger the actor, just because the Joker role is so overpowering. Ledger and Nolan treat the character correctly, making a total committment to his drive for anarchy and total chaos leaving no traces of Ledger. In fact, I felt like looking up a few interviews prior to his Batman debut to try and remember him, the person.
So, the question certainly rages on – who is the better Joker. I would rather not answer the question, but since I think that’s a copout, I’ll give it a shot. Nicholson defined the role. He set the bar for villians across the board. In fact, it’s cool that Ledger actually plays homage to Nicholson with subtle character ticks in his portrayal. Also, Nicholson’s Joker’s origins are true to the comic book (common criminal set up, falls into a vat of acid), but that is creative license and more of a reflection of the director than the actor. So….
All things being equal, because as I mentioned, Ledger matches all that with his intensity and dedication to the role, I have to give the nod to Ledger. And here’s why – with Nicholson’s character, not at any time do you forget it’s him playing it. With Ledger there is no trace of him. It’s the Joker – and you’re left with a feeling of no idea who is the guy behind the make-up.
That’s just my opinion and it’s very hard to pick. (But don’t give me the ‘Jack played it first’ argument; if you’re going there you have to say that Cesar Romero was the best.) So, until next time: “Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!”