The Dark Knight  is a ‘sequel’ to Batman Begins . A follow-up. Part II. Purpose being to carry on the lagacy – to pick up from where the ‘first part’ left off, and add to it as it goes along. ‘The Dark Knight’ went on to surpass the opening day collections ($67,165,092) , not only of its predecessor, but that of Spiderman 3 ($59.8 million) , and eventually was ranked #1 in the Top 250 movies ranking by Imdb.
When Heath Ledger was awarded the part of The Joker, beating the likes of Sean Penn, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Paul Bettany and Steve Buscemi et al, I didn’t find it something to look forward to. Being an avid comics enthusiast and Bat-fan, only appeal the film held for me was as a successor to one of the most successful Batman films ever made. Soon, screen shots from the film, including those featuring Ledger as Joker were all over the internet. Frankly, for me, looked interesting but also a bit of a let down. Sure scary (and scarry), but the W-I-D-E grin was missing.
Circa 2008. January. Heath Andrew Ledger passed away. Cause of death: drug overdose. Shocking demise of a young, promising actor, then known mostly for his roles in The Patriot, Ned Kelly, A Knight’s Tale, 10 Things I Hate about You, and for his sparkling performance in Brokeback Mountain.
July 18, 2008. The Dark Knight released all over. Enter The Joker. Clown Prince. Psychopath par excellence. Crime genius. Mass murderer. Evil. Evil. Evil.
“Let’s turn the clocks back. A year ago, these cops and lawyers wouldn’t dare cross any of you. I mean, what happened? Did your – did your balls drop off? Hmm?”
Not just the dialogues. The ‘did your…’ repeated twice and the very eccentric ‘Hmm?’ at the end…or for that matter:
“You look nervous. Is it the scars? You want to know how I got them? Come here. Hey, look at me. So I had a wife, beautiful; like you. Who tells me, I worry too much. Who tells me, I ought to smile more. Who gambles, and gets in deep with sharks. One day they carve her face. We have no money for surgeries. She can’t take it! I just want to see her smile again. I just want her to know that I don’t care about the scars. So I stick a razor in my mouth and do this…”
The guy on the screen with the joker paint and the scars and the sinister laugh (Ha! Ha-ha! Ha!)…as if by some strange magic spell, the archenemy of Batman – arguably the most hated and scariest character in comics history – has come alive, leaping straight from the pages of DC to the silver screen!
To say that Heath Ledger got into the ‘skin’ of the character would be a criminal understatement. He is ‘The’ Joker! Jack Nicholson is one of the greatest actors Hollywood ever produced, but his take on The Joker is just another Hollywood Supervillain.
But Heath Ledger, I’d say that again, is ‘THE’ Joker. HE is the guy who’d go on to kill Jason Todd (Robin) and bound Barbara Gordon to a wheelchair for the rest of her life! His portrayal of the madcap killer gets us a glimpse of the only motive that drives him – pure EVIL; anarchy and chaos he thrives on.
It’s a pity none of us would ever again be thrilled by another Batman-Joker encounter. And to think the guy was just getting started! The possibilities we can only ponder on and fantasise about. This time the Joke’s on us. The Killing Joke.
I take a bow, Mr. Ledger. Hats off.