I had the fortune of seeing the latest movie in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight, during its opening weekend. Let me tell you, that movie was fantastic. It is a testament to the marvel that was Heath Ledger’s all too brief career, and I cannot think of a more perfect actor to have played the part of the Joker. The movie as a whole was an adventure, and though it was just over 2 and a half hours long, it was never tedious or monotonous. The lack of over-the-top visual effects and CGI left room to highlight the genius of the actors. That’s right, actors acting! This is further promoted by the minimalistic score. Where most comic-book movies revel in the big scores and cheesy one-liners. The Dark Knight uses neither of these. The mood builds of its own accord, and boy is there mood. It’s creepy, loving, and the character development draws you right in. Though some parts of the movie, such as Bruce’s almost magical proficiency for technology or Batman’s too perfect gadgets, were part of the typical movie realm. However, the raw talent of the actors gave a very realistic quality to the movie, giving it all the more resonance with viewers. With this, the events seem almost plausible.
And the plausibility is what renders it terrifying. I have honestly in my life, however short it may be thus far, seen acting talent like Heath Ledger as the Joker. This character leaves the realm of comic relief entirely and becomes utterly frightening, for he is first and foremost insane. He’s not a silly smiley man, he’s not a prankster wreaking havoc, he is entirely unpredictable and promotes chaos in all its forms. Please go see the movie. There are no words beyond my feeble attempt to describe how absolutely spectacular the whole production is.
I recently read this article analyzing the Joker’s love of chaos. The approach is very different from one I would have taken but I really see the author’s point. The article views the Joker as an “upholder of feminism”. Again, not my initial reaction, but very interesting. The Joker and Batman are polar opposites. Batman is the patriarchy – order, system and safety. He works to eliminate chaos in all its forms, from crime to corrupt authority. He upholds “the plan”, whatever the plan may be. The Joker very clearly stands for chaos; he states this on more than one occasion. He wants to have fun. That is his goal, to promote chaos to entertain himself. If Batman is the patriarchy, the oppressive restrictive order, and Joker is his opposite, than what is Joker? A feminist?
Don’t worry, I am not arguing here that Batman is anything but a hero. He certainly is, but you cannot argue that he promotes any order but the accepted status quo. The Joker yearns to drag this down and resurrect – what? So far it seems his sole aim is to change the status quo, to usher in a new era where there is no plan. Having seen the movie and viewed the Joker in all his epic glory, I would say he is well on his way. This is readily apparent in his destruction of Gotham’s “legitimate” hero, District Attorney Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart. He effectively drives Dent to the point where he can no longer be a part of the plan. His scars from an incident in the movie – if you don’t know what it is, I won’t give it away – disfigure his face and render him Two-Face, another well-known villian played in the original by Tommy Lee Jones. Two-Face is a split personality who kills on random chance. He flips a two-headed coin, one side with the face scarred, to decide whether the people he encounters will live or die. The Joker single-handedly caused Dent’s downfall from Symbol of Justice to Chance-Driven Villian. What a turn.
I eagerly await the next installment of the Batman series. If the Joker is to return, I cannot imagine that anyone could fill the big shoes left by Heath Ledger. In fact, I can’t wait to see The Dark Knight again for that performance and the formidable opposition of Christian Bale as Batman. Go see the movie, your perception of cinema will be forever changed.