While I reviewed TV shows in high school and plays in college, I never wrote a movie review until after I saw The Dark Knight in theaters. And while this post focuses more on the Joker than on the film proper, I still consider it my first movie review, and certainly my first piece written about a movie, unless you count an essay I wrote as part of a weekly assignment in my basic acting class, focusing on Rene Falconetti’s performance in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.
The Dark Knight and the Clown Prince
Current mood: bored
Category: Movies, TV, Celebrities
On Wednesday, I got to see The Dark Knight at an IMAX theater. For those of you wanting to see this movie, IMAX is the way to go, though I had difficulty making out what people were saying whenever the movie soundtrack was playing loudly. Hopefully, that was only a problem in the theater I was in.
If you want nothing revealed about this movie, but aren’t sure whether or not to go see it, I have this to say. While I thought the first movie (Batman Begins) was great, this one’s a masterpiece. A dark masterpiece, to be sure, for while the first one involved suspense as to what the bad guys were up to (and who they were), this one provides a different kind of suspense that borders on terror: what will the Joker do next?
Hopefully, all of you who wish to know nothing about the movie have left by now, so that I can go into a few plot details. But first, a comparison between Jokers. Jack Nicholson’s Joker was the best baddie of the four “original” Batman movies (I haven’t seenBatman & Robin, but unless Arnold Schwartzenegger and Uma Thurman acted better than the cheesy performances shown in that movie’s trailers, I feel confident in making that assessment), getting some competition from Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Having seen the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, however, I think Jack underacted the part. Well, that’s not quite true. Rather, his vision of the Joker was as a calm and collected villain with a taste for the macabre and a warped sense of humor, and that’s how he played the role. Ledger’s vision of the Joker is as a maniacal lunatic that is made more dangerous by the fact that he doesn’t play by any rules, and a sick sense of humor. Also, his main goal is to sow chaos and anarchy, by any and all means necessary. Unlike other villains in other Batman movies, he’s dangerous because Batman must use all of his cunning to stop him, and even THEN the Joker might win, because neither Batman nor the police can think as twistedly as he can.
The main enjoyment of this movie is that the theatergoer is petrified half of the time in wondering 1.) what the Joker’s plans are, if any, and 2.) what he will think of doing next. That tone is set early in the movie, when the Joker crashes a meeting of mob bosses and shows them a “magic trick.” Sticking a pencil into the table, he says he will make the pencil disappear. When one of the mob boss’s henchmen goes over to throw him out of the meeting, the Joker slams his head on the erect pencil, making the pencil “disappear” when the man falls dead on the floor. “Ta-daa!” the Joker says.
He also forces Batman–and the people around him (Batman)–to make harsh choices, ones that will lead to death for some, but not for others. And yet, the Joker doesn’t want to kill Batman, for Batman makes his life fun. Or, as he says at one point in the movie, “You…complete me.” And while it’s meant to be funny, there is truth in it. A special on the History Channel called the “Psychology of the Dark Knight” revealed the Joker’s psyche to be the opposite of Batman’s. Batman follows a moral code; the Joker follows no code. Batman believes in morality and laws; the Joker believes that they don’t exist, because they can be broken and twisted. They are two sides of the same coin, though that coin has one bad side, like the one Two-Face uses (see Batman Forever to clarify what I mean…or the animated series, if you want to enjoy yourself more).
I don’t know if Ledger will win an Oscar for his performance, but he should be nominated. Few performances witness an actor embodying his or her character so much that they become that character. After seeing this movie, you’ll forget about Jack. For Ledger IS the Joker.