I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to watch this…I feel like I have let the entire fandom down. I have been a fan of Batman since I was a young boy, through the animated series.
More recently I have found a love for the comic medium (holistically) and even more recently a love for the Batman comics. Especially those that involve the Joker. To me, The Joker is an incredibly complex character, despite the seemingly chaotic nature of his character. And, because of this, he is the focus of this article.
The Joker is one of those characters that has captured the imagination of comic book writers everywhere. Writers from Frank Miller to Neil Gaiman have tried their own personal brand of The Joker and his unending rivalry with Batman. You love to despise him, and at times find yourself almost rooting for him.
The Joker spent most of his life delighting comic book readers, but has been brought into the mass of our generation through Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, with the award winning portrayal by Heath Ledger.
But I find myself, a fan of the comic book Joker, appreciating Tim Burton’s take on the character more than Nolan’s (which is really saying something, because I love Nolan as a director and love the Dark Knight). Burton’s Joker (portrayed by Jack Nicholson) was more well rounded. An enemy created by Batman. A straight laced gangster, through and through. The peak of elegance, which brilliantly juxtaposed the unease of his mind. Compare that to Nolan’s Joker who is as slobbish as he is deranged. Before you even really know who he is, you know that he is insane.
But, perhaps, the biggest difference is seen in these following clips:
While I don’t think anyone will ever argue that Ledger’s performance was not the better PERFORMANCE of the two, the writing fell flat. Nolan’s Joker was a madman with make-up. Burton’s was a masterful killer clown. Nolan’s Joker lost the humor. There was no laughter or joy in Dark Knight. But in Batman, you see the Joker pulling pranks. Albeit, insane pranks. But that is what the comic book villain is all about. The joy. The insanity.
That is not to say that I agree with everything that Burton did with The Joker in Batman. Burton changed the background of the characters to say that the Joker, while he was still Jack Napier, killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. This changes the entire point of Batman to a story of revenge, instead of the traditional dark guardian propelled out of his misery. This choice made no sense, but is not really representative of the Joker.
That is not to say that Dark Knight is not a good film. In fact, it’s probably the stronger film of the two. While I did enjoy Burton’s Batman, the plot was lacking intensely, the characters weren’t nearly as developed as they should have been, and there was perhaps a bit too much camp. It was quintessential bad eighties. But it was a fun ride, and if you are a fan of the Joker, it is a MUST.
But for my money, the best Joker award still goes to Mark Hamill: