Now that was the Joker.
Unlike a lot of people, I’m actually not a big fan of the Jack Nicholson Joker. It was a good enough movie on its own, but to me that just isn’t the Joker. Where did the whole “homicidal artist” thing come from? And Jack may make a good villain, but I don’t think he makes a good Joker. I’ve always said I would have nominated Christopher Lloyd (see the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) or Tim Curry (who almost got the role in the cartoon before Mark Hamill came along). But now they’d both be too old.
Here, however, both problems are corrected. I found the way the character was written to be completely faithful to the Joker I know from the comics, and Heath Ledger’s performance fully lives up to the hype. You never think about who’s behind the makeup, which can’t be said about Jack.
We saw the “IMAX Experience” version of the film, which I definitely recommend. Going in I thought the difference between the IMAX and non-IMAX scenes would be jarring, but it’s actually fairly subtle, which is good because the two are often actually intercut. It seemed like all the aerial shots were done in IMAX, plus a couple of other specific locations and of course the opening bank robbery sequence. The thing is that the screen is so big, the extra area covered by the IMAX shots is just about in your peripheral vision, so you might miss the transition until you look around a bit more and realize what an amazing panorama it is all of a sudden.
It’s hard to say anything more that’s interesting without spoilers, so I’ll just go ahead.
Part of the film’s story is how Harvey Dent became Two-Face. I thought this worked well. For one thing, they set up his coin-flipping habit in his first scene. I also liked the subtle references to him as a “hero with a face”, in contrast to the masked Batman. I was of course disappointed to see him die in the end (or did he?), but this was different from your standard “villain plunging to his death” situation. It was actually important to the story: there was a need to preserve the image of Harvey Dent as the “white knight” of Gotham City, a symbol of hope that Batman could never be because Dent represented the law.
I was hoping Two-Face’s appearance would be a little less extreme, but I wasn’t surprised that they went that far. On a technical level, it works very well. But not only is it gross and distracting, it also strains credibility. How can a man in that condition not be in constant screaming pain?
For me the most thought-provoking thing was the Joker’s expression of his philosophy. He reveled in the idea that he was immune to interrogation because there was nothing the police or Batman could use as leverage against him. There was nothing he wanted. But of course there was, or he wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble. What he wanted, and worked so desperately for, was to prove that any person will compromise their morals under the right circumstances.
I can think of lots of responses I might give to this. So nobody’s perfect? That’s old news. Then there’s the problem with proving that something will eventually happen, but the only method available to you is trial and error. When you fail, all you have to do is say that wasn’t the right situation, and surely next time you’ll get it right.
So why is the Joker so intent on proving this idea? Because if he’s wrong, then there is enduring good in the world, a constant standard against which everyone can fairly be measured. And he doesn’t measure up. That’s a hard thing to face.
The mere fact that I’m having such thoughts is another testament to what a good movie this is. I could even see it again, once it stops being sold out.
There were a couple of things that bothered me, though. As above, Two-Face’s scarring was unbelievably extreme. Another is the presence of guns on the Batpod. These car chases involve an awful lot of property damage, which Batman didn’t seem very worried about avoiding.
And finally, what’s up with the mayor’s eyeliner?