Monday, October 8, 2007

Who's the better Joker: Ledger or Nicholson?

The next topic for The Great Debate is something that's a really good topic for discussion...but one which has really horrible timing. Who's the better Joker: Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson?

This will be a question that fans will be debating for months and perhaps years to come. But ONLY after The Dark Knight is released! How can one possibly know for certain or have an opinion about Ledger's portrayal of The Joker...before the bloody movie is even IN cinemas!?

It's ridiculous. The only thing we know about Ledger's Joker is what we've heard so terms of rumours...and what we've seen from the screenshots Warner Brothers have released. Beyond that, we have no idea whether he'll be as insanely maniacal as Nicholson, or even outperform Jack. It's stupid trying to compare Nicholson's virtuoso performance to someone who we haven't yet seen on the big screen.

I know people have already made up their minds about Ledger being a good choice for the role or not, but've got this so so wrong Wizard. This is the WRONG time to be having a great debate about this. Wait until the movie is out first at least!

We pose the most important question being asked by Bat-fans these days... and we answer both sides of the debate!

Posted October 6, 2007 11:55 AM

In the vibrant, moody Bat-universe Tim Burton built for 1989’s “Batman,” the rubber-faced Jack Nicholson made sense as the Joker. Over-the-top, dancing, kidding around with goons and brandishing a 3-foot pistol from his ultra-purple pants, he was the best possible option at the time. But that version won’t fly in Chris Nolan’s brutal world.

The director has developed a realistic version of Gotham—a place where a fed-up socialite could actually take to the streets to clean up crime. In that case, you’d need a Joker eerily similar to today’s existentially lost counterculture—an anarchist with punk-rock sensibilities who sees life as a sick joke and carelessly fools around with the very laws someone like Batman would try and enforce because he finds their existence absurdly hilarious.

As for his appearance, some scoffed at the decision to scar Heath Ledger’s version with a permanent grin. But I see it as a terrifying twist on the bozo clowns who scared you as child and wore fake, red, caked-on makeup smiles. Ledger’s tragic, deranged Joker literally can’t stop grinning and his creepy, smeared cosmetic face mirrors the madness coursing through his body.

The bottom line is Ledger’s Joker could easily attack you on the street tonight or be hiding in your hometown, and it’s that firmly placed foot in reality that gives him an edge over Nicholson. Ledger isn’t someone you’d stop to laugh at. He’s someone you want to run the hell away from, and that’s what makes him so fun to watch.
-Rickey A. Purdin

After stumbling out of a plastic surgeon’s back alley chop shop early in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman,” Jack Nicholson became the Joker. And over the next hour as he defaced paintings, spit up chattering teeth and (admit it) chewed scenery, he cemented his place as the greatest performance of the supervillain role ever because he wasn’t just a murdering psychopath. He was funny, too.

Nicholson’s Joker took a character most remembered as a actor in his twilight years with grease paint smeared over his mustache and turned it into a genuinely scary mob enforcer the audience couldn’t help but laugh at. The actor’s menacing eyes combined with the picture-perfect grin and impeccable comic timing transformed sillier elements of the Joker mythos and the “Batman” screenplay into classic screen moments. Who else could make lines like “Where does he get those wonderful toys” and “This town needs an enema” work?

And in his creepier moments, from scarring his lover’s face as a work of art to cold-heartedly killing his second-in-command, Nicholson is equally effective in making the audience take him as a serious threat rather than a cartoonish annoyance. It was the combination of broad comedy and intense dramatic action that helped the Joker redefine the movie supervillain—a method that’s been utilized by everyone from Colin Farrell in “Daredevil” to Willem Dafoe in “Spider-Man,” but never to as strong an effect.
-Kiel Phegley

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