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The Dark Knight (2008)

Dark Knight

Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knightis arguably the best adaptation of the infamous DC villain. This joker sports the famous purple suit jacket, green hair, and chalk-white makeup with a slash of red lipstick. It is clear through Ledger’s genius performance in the film that both him and Christopher Nolan, the director, envisioned a Joker that closeWindow()ly related back to the original dark roots of the villain. Ledger’s Joker is best described as an agent of chaos whose favorite weapon of destruction was psychological warfare. Although, the Joker is obviously the clear villain in the film (killing multiple innocent people and placing a few dozen more in danger) his character still invokes some type of sympathy from the audience. However, in this film it is not through a tragic origin story but through his philosophies about society and human nature. During an interrogation scene with Batman Joker states, “They’re only as good as the world allows them to be…. When the chips are down these civilized people … they’ll eat each other. See I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” Batman immediately proceeds to slam Joker’s head into a table, but the audience instead is left pondering this very plausible theory. Are people in society actually innately as good as they seem? Or do they conform to a standard of good that the world has told them to be? Maybe the Joker is the only person left that is staying true to his character.

Nolan also maintained the mystique of the Joker character by giving Ledger lines throughout the film that hinted at a possible origin story. The Joker would ask some people “do you know how I got these scars?,” referring to the Glasgow smile scar painted bright red across his face. He would then proceed to tell a story about an abusive father who carved his face with a knife or in a completely different scene tell a story about a past wife that got him to take a razor to his cheeks. It is never revealed whether either of those stories hold any truth, but they were important to include so that the Joker character may continue to be reinvented with each adaptation or fan imagination.

In order to bring this interpretation of the Joker to life both Ledger and Nolan explored a number of the original DC graphic novels such as Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A serious House on Serious Earth. Ledger was also verbal about his method acting experience when trying to get in the head of the Joker. He locked himself in a hotel room, meditated, did not sleep, and kept a journal full of dark images and quotes. All these methods combined brought to life a Joker that many have not been able to replicate.

Works Cited

“The Joker (Nolanverse).” Batman Wiki, batman.fandom.com/wiki/The_Joker_(Nolanverse).

“Joker (The Dark Knight).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Dec. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joker_(The_Dark_Knight).

Nolan, Christopher, director. The Dark Knight. Youtube, Warner Bros Pictures, 2008, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jane6C4rIwc.