Preaching to the clown-faced choir

It’s not often that a film in a largely underappreciated genre really goes the distance, not just regaling the audience with flash and dazzle special effects, but offering rich, complicated characterization and a gripping, intelligently written plot.

I’m speaking, of course, about Space Chimps.

All right, no, I’m not.  I, like seemingly 87% of the rest of America, saw The Dark Knight this weekend.  There is absolutely nothing new I can contribute to the discussion that you haven’t read multiple times already on other blogs, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, or whatever your social networking website of choice might be (perhaps all of them, if you have that much of an attention span, which I do not).  I’m sure it’s starting to look like a big blur now: “Heath Ledger Academy Award poor Harvey Dent Batcycle Morgan Freeman is God and holy shit did you see that Watchmen trailer?” I’m not even going to bother elaborating much on the odd gravelly voice Christian Bale adopted whenever he was in disguise that made me think he was going to break into a rendition of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ at any moment.

I will say that I’m glad the naysayers who groused that death was the best thing to happen to Heath Ledger’s career have been resoundingly proven wrong.  Oozing filthy, demented menace from every pore, Ledger’s Joker is an outstanding performance whether he would have been lucky enough to live to hear the accolades or not.  I don’t know how true the rumors are about his getting so deeply into the role that it left him emotionally unstable, but it’s remarkable that someone so relatively young could take an iconic character and completely remake it into an all new entity.  This is not the goofy, scenery chewing Joker played by Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson, this is the “this motherfucker is capable of anything” Joker, the one who beat Jason Todd with a crowbar and left him to die in an explosion, the Joker who killed Commissioner Gordon’s wife1.  He has no origin story (a running gag in the film has him giving different explanations for the scars on his face), and he has no reason for doing what he does, other than that he enjoys chaos and just fucking shit up.  He’s the sociopathic id that lies within the darkest parts of our minds, with a laugh that’s one part carnival funhouse and one part hellish troll.  While I doubt Ledger will win a posthumous Academy Award, given that the Academy appreciates comic book movies about as much as they appreciate horror (and let’s face it, movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man are still anomalies in being not just good comic book adaptations, but good films overall), his rendition of the Joker is one that is unlikely to be matched, let alone surpassed.  He may not appear in any more movies, sadly, but he’ll surely show up in an awful lot of nightmares.

1Before you start screaming “spoiler,” neither of these incidents happened in the movie. They’re from various comic book/graphic novel installments, so calm down.


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