Why So Serious?

I have to agree with the post below that Heath Ledger’s portrait of the joker is chilling. There are time’s throughout the movie where I find him horrifying and other times I wonder why the heck i’m laughing, IE) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfmkRi_tr9c) for instance. I think that after learning about Ledger’s tragic death and the fact that he literally transformed himself into The Joker both on and off the screen shows the commitment that (some) actors give to a character in order to ensure that the audience is happy with the results. This is something we can see in Heath’s performance. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest acting performances ever portrayed. I may not know how the Joker is in the comic books but I do know that I was sold on his portrayal. I want to ask the Batman comic book lovers how they felt about Heath’s performance of the Joker?

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6 Responses to Why So Serious?

  1. Here’s as good a place as any to ask you all if you’ve seen the 1979 Tom Waits interview that seems to have “inspired” Ledger’s performance:
    http://youtu.be/gCSc6E4yG9s

    • Marie Mosot says:

      In a related note: in an interview, Gary Oldman said that Ledger as the Joker reminded him of Malcolm McDowell as Alex in A Clockwork Orange, and I think Ledger even based part of his performance on Alex (i.e., watched Kubrick’s film in preparation). I don’t think it’s an arbitrary association: two agents of chaos with their own sense of (un)reason and (anti)logic. They even dress similarly :D

      In this sense, the Joker becomes his namesake: he and Alex are really reiterations of the trickster god in traditional folktales, the forces that challenge and release the tensions inherent in the established order (I must still have Propp’s character functions in mind). “Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos…. And you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.” This brings into question the degrees of adaptation, why some texts have more aura than others. Ledger’s performance is powerful because it taps into something primal – by repurposing material, by mining questions that centuries of thought have raised about law, order, morality, etc. These concerns didn’t originate with Batman or TDK – they’re inherent in our society, maybe even the human condition. What TDK achieves as a comic book adaptation, it does so through an engagement with larger and even older concerns and forces.

    • WHOA. I never made that connection before, but now I fear I’m going to hear Tom Waits every time I watch TDK.

  2. trevor11 says:

    Being a comic book lover myself and Batman being my favorite of them all, Heath Ledger did for others what I have done for sometime now, have a reason to take it SERIOUSLY. Comic books often are viewed as childs playthings, silly and immature but a performance like this shows that there is something much deeper in these characters that is worth digging at and examining when adapting them to screen. Viewing source material like a comic book as a text or piece of real literature can change how one views the adaptations of those same strips in a different light. I think that Ledger gave a phenomenal performance that shows that adapting a character sometimes means reinventing them with some of the original elements and spirit. His joker was something a bit familiar wrapped in something very different and it work perfectly (in my opinion of course).

    • Marie Mosot says:

      I think it was the History Channel that featured a show on comic books as reflections of the current culture: the plight of the X-Men mirrors racial discrimination; female superheroes mirrored women’s lib; etc. That comic books were considered “playthings” demonstrates the word/image hierarchy that dominated discourse for centuries. If adaptations have allowed comic books to be taken “seriously,” it’s because they demonstrated both the malleability of art and meaning and the natures of certain narratives as fundamental across mediums (read also: my comment above). That is, we recognize now through adaptations that regardless of source, a good story can be had anywhere in any medium.

    • Great point Marie about keeping in mind the historical context for the initial characters. I would say that one reason Nolan’s Batman trilogy is so successful/popular is because it fits very much into “this time” (maybe even moreso than if the exact same movie were made in, say, 1960).

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