Here we are, number three on my countdown of five favorite pop-culture baddies. This is a dual post, actually. Am I cheating with that? I don’t care; my blog, my rules.
When Tim Burton brought Batman to the big screen in 1989, he brought with him one of Batman’s most quintessential foes. I really don’t know the story behind Jack Nicholson being cast as the Joker, but I do know that Nicholson was no stranger to playing the psychological duality card; only nine years earlier he’d expertly captured the sociopathic meltdown of Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining. His mastery of the performing arts along with his iconic eyebrows and devilish grin made him the perfect actor for the role. (Hold on–did I just say that The Shining came out only nine years before Batman? It’s been twenty-seven years now since Batman came out. That just doesn’t seem right…)
When Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise sixteen years later with Batman Begins, he started the game with a villain who was virtually unknown to the viewing public; sure, the plethora of comic book fans were well-acquainted with Ra’s al Ghul, but the mass public knew only of the standards from the recent films and the 1960s TV show, like the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Catwoman. This was a bold move on Nolan’s part, and it paid off. At the very least, it whet our appetite, leaving us wanting for more.
Which brings us to…
3. The Joker
The Dark Knight was released in 2008, and not only was this the first Batman movie to not have the name Batman in the title, but it also introduced us to a new Joker. And while the internet had not embraced the news of Heath Ledger portraying the Clown Prince of Crime with open arms, early publicity photos and movie stills showed us a wonderfully creepy version of the Joker that we didn’t even know we yearned for. His untimely death prior to the release of the movie would make this among the last times we would see Ledger on film; he would never know the true impact he had on the role, forever changing how we would see the Joker.And with that…
I really don’t know which version I prefer. I suppose I’d probably lean toward Ledger’s performance; there was a lot more mystery to the character that made him more interesting. Though Jack Nicholson’s portrayal was a boatload of fun; wonderfully dark with biting humor and memorable one-liners.”Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.” “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” “I’ve been dead once already. It’s very liberating. You should think of it as therapy.” “Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me… Joker. And as you can see, I’m a lot happier.”
And with that…
Both Nicholson and Ledger brought something to the role worthy of their immense talents, giving us two amazing, larger-than-life versions of the same character. Jared Leto is next on the list in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, and we’re being told that this could be the wildest version of the Joker, yet. I’m looking forward to seeing his interpretation, though I doubt I’m going to be adding his version of the character to my list of favorites. No offense to Leto, as I think he’ll do just fine with the role, but that fact that Heath Ledger helped to reinvent our perception of the Joker doesn’t mean that every new iteration needs to be reinvented. More to the point, I’d love to see a version of the Joker that mirrors the comic book version more accurately, both visually and in his mannerisms. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to play one of the Batman Arkham games, you’ll get a good idea of how the character could (and I feel should) be handled the next time around.
It does strike me that the way Leto is playing the character is pivotal to the movie itself; a classic interpretation simply wouldn’t work with this new film. I’m just saying that I hope we one day get the chance to see a classic, live-action version of the Joker and possibly even a classic Batman (with his blue cowl and gray tights). That would be a fun flick to see. They could make it a period piece; take us back to the late 1940s and start over there. No high-tech gadgets or tank-like Batmobile. Just bare-bones detective work, a little skillful hand-to-hand combat, and possibly a few Batarangs for good measure.
And that’s it for number three. My top two favorite baddies are coming up, and I’m still having a riotously good time putting these together. I hope you’re enjoying them, too. If you haven’t started following my blog yet, feel free to click that fancy button now. And it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you decided to share my posts with a friend or two. Go on; you know you want to. And I decided I won’t even mention my upcoming vampire project. You know–the one I plan to reveal this spring? Yeah, I’m not going to say a word about that. See you soon.