Friday, February 01, 2008

What a Joker

The other day, I commented that Heath Ledger's take on The Joker, based on a trailer I had seen (viewable here), had potential. Above is a promo of how he appears as said character in the upcoming Dark Knight Batman sequel.

A (not-so) quick word about the last film, Batman Begins, to which this is a direct sequel: I loved it. Dare I say it, I loved it even more than the first Tim Burton Batman, yes, even with Jack Nicholson as the villain (seriously, Michael Keaton as a wealthy playboy turned crimefighter? Granted, he did it more convincingly than Val Kilmer or George Clooney, but still... blech). I loved it because it started from the premise of wealthy vigilante and proceeded to take itself seriously. There were logical, rational explanations for all the usual Batman tropes: the cape stabilized his falling mobility, the suit started out as a military prototype body armor, even the whole bat-motif was done on purpose, both to fight his own demons and strike fear (using "theatricality", as Bruce Wayne's mentor put it) into the heart of the criminal element against which he fought. Even the villains weren't over-the-top: the Scarecrow was "just" a crazy, evil psychiatrist with a thing for mind-altering chemicals (who didn't prance around in an actual scarecrow outfit!); the main villain, Ra's al-Ghul, while important in the comic-world, wasn't even exactly a big-name draw, but they pulled him off quite well; heck, they even included mob boss Carmine Falcone!

But back to the topic at hand: it looks, so far, like they're taking the same tack in the sequel. Ledger's Joker looks, well, crazy. Not wacky-madcap criminally crazy, just frick'n crazy. And given the Joker's established persona, this seems to be a good fit. From Wikipedia's entry on the comic-book character:
His capricious nature, coupled with his violent streak, makes him the one villain that the DC Universe's other super-villains fear; in the Villains United and Infinite Crisis mini-series, the members of the villains' Secret Society refuse to induct the Joker for this reason. In the one-shot Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster remarks, "When super-villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories".

It's not clear to me at this point whether his makeup is just makeup (as it appears above, and in the trailer), or if it's part of some chemical disfiguration, as it is in official comicdom canon. Nevertheless, after my great enjoyment of the first film, I'm eagerly anticipating the next one.

Update: I should provide some personal background here: while not a hard-core comic-book geek, I've always been a big fan of Batman. Something's always fascinated me about the dark nature of the character and the universe he inhabits, particularly ever since Frank Miller (of recent Sin City and 300 fame) "rebooted " the franchise back in the 1980's with his The Dark Knight Returns miniseries. Many people have imitated the dark super-anti-hero of that work since then, but he really set the standard.

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