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No laughing matter

Heath Ledger's hauntingly brillant portrayal of The Joker leaves fan saddened by his death

Heath Ledger's hauntingly brillant portrayal of The Joker leaves fan saddened by his death

August 12, 2008|By ERICA SYVERSON / Pulse Correspondent

The Joker of "Batman" fame is my favorite villain of all time.

Gotham City never saw a better bad guy. He represents a side of everyone who doesn't care. He's the ultimate anarchist who wants nothing more than to make a mess of things just to see if people are willing to clean it up. There is no monetary or influential motivation. He is an unstoppable force - and that scares people.

I guiltily admit that I had low expectations for the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," because nothing compares to the comic books.

The Joker is a sociopath with wild eyes, a long, slender face and a green pompadour. How could one of my favorite hunks from across the pond transform into the horrifying image from my childhood?

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I feared Heath Ledger's appearance as The Joker would ruin my memories of him as a heartthrob and possibly turn out to be an even creepier repeat of Jack Nicholson's appearance as The Joker in 1989's "Batman." I am pleased to report that I was completely wrong to assume these things.

Ledger's Joker is clever, cunning, crazy and corrupt. The actor, known primarily for romantic comedies and dramas, didn't just take on an appearance this time - he took on persona, delving deep into this character's psyche and molding it with his own until the two became one. This helped to create a character on screen that went beyond special effects makeup and a snappy, fitted suit.

The Joker's sick mentality and appetite for destruction were displayed perfectly by the way Ledger spoke and moved throughout the film. Unlike Nicholson, Ledger also gave The Joker a bit of sex appeal, but at no point was there a sign of "Ledger: The Actor," only "Ledger: The Joker." It was method acting at its finest.

In the comic books, The Joker's backstory is that he fell into a vat of chemicals, which left his face severely disfigured and his brain severely deranged. In the film, The Joker gives many explanations for his disfiguration, all of them involving the corners of his mouth being cut into a smile. He twists the tales while holding a knife at his victims' cheek - grinning the whole time. These stories help to portray a dark sense of humor in the character, adding to the creepiness factor and demonstrating how twisted he actually is.

I believe that this role would have made the film industry take Heath Ledger more seriously. He won everyone's heart in "10 Things I Hate About You" and "A Knight's Tale," but "The Dark Knight" revealed a side of Ledger that no one knew existed - a side with the ability to play a depraved maniac. This is an Oscar-worthy performance because no one ever suspected potential like that behind a face and body like his. (And what a face and body it was.)

"The Dark Knight" is a cinematic triumph that kept me on the edge of my seat for more than two and a half hours. While Christian Bale continues to display the right stuff to play a multi-faceted, conflicted character like Batman, The Joker has never been so scary or sexy. I don't think he ever will be again.

Ledger's Joker is a role to be remembered, making his death all the more tragic. I didn't think anyone could personify Batman's nemesis properly. But upon leaving the theater, I realized I couldn't have asked for anyone else. It's just such a shame that we won't be hearing from him again.

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