Heath Ledger's Joker: What Worked, What Didn't


by Ryan Rigley

Although "The Dark Knight Rises" has seen a considerable amount of success as of late, it still pales in comparison to the record breaking release of "The Dark Knight" back in 2008. Making over $400 million in just 18 days, "The Dark Knight" thrived at the box office due in large part to a combination of rave reviews and word of mouth. Not to mention the fact that Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker was absolutely phenomenal.

It's no wonder that the Clown Prince of Crime is still being talked about to this day. In fact, just last week the fate of The Joker was revealed in a novelization of "The Dark Knight Rises," which had Batman fanboys, like myself, longing for what could have been.

Ledger's take on the Man Who Laughs may have been one of the greatest movie villains of all time, but how does it compare to The Joker of comic book lore? Find out after the jump!

What Worked: Everything. But more specifically, Heath Ledger's Joker in "The Dark Knight" perfectly encapsulates every aspect of the comic book Joker that we all know and love. From the campy prankster Joker made popular by Cesar Romero in the '60s to the homicidal maniac Joker that now graces the pages of DC comic books, Ledger really did a terrific job of pulling inspiration from both sides of the coin. Unlike Jack Nicholson's Joker, who relied on props and sight gags to get a laugh, The Joker that we see in "The Dark Knight" is a mysterious madman with a disturbingly dark sense of humor. We never truly know what he's thinking at any given time and it's that wild unpredictability that makes him such a dangerous adversary for the Caped Crusader.

What Needed Work: Maybe I'm just nitpicking here, but it would have been nice to get a sense of how The Joker came to be the psychopath that he is in "The Dark Knight." In the comic books, The Joker accidentally falls into a vat of chemicals whilst being chased by Batman himself. The fact that Batman is almost directly responsible for creating The Joker says a lot about their dynamic. This would also explain The Joker's complete fixation with The Dark Knight and why he won't "retire" until he's killed him. If we were shown that Batman was somehow responsible for creating The Joker in "The Dark Knight," then it would have made even more sense for him to feel responsible for taking the fall for Harvey Dent's crimes. Again, a nitpick; after all, we did learn (or did we?) how he got those scars.

What Was New & Interesting: Those scars. Oh, do we wanna know how he got those scars. In the comics, The Joker's "permanent smile" is just a metaphor for his insane outlook on life. Sure, he smiles a hell of a lot but he's also fully capable of frowning. Making it so that his mouth has been literally carved into a permanent smile adds a whole nother level crazy to this already deranged lunatic. Plus, the fact that we never really learn how he got the scars in the first place is a great homage to how we're never really sure of The Joker's actual origin in the comic books. I think the Clown Prince of Crime best summed it up himself in Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke" when he said, "If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"

Tell us what you think of Ledger's take on Joker in the comments below or on Twitter, and join us next week as we look at another villain from comic book movie lore!