When it was first announced way back in 2007 that a young actor known for his interesting cowboy movies was going to be portraying the Joker, the world was in uproar. Most people screamed that it was a terrible idea, and that would ruin the character. Then The Dark Knight hit theaters in 2008, and everyone went quiet; not only because they had just had their largely negative opinions shoved back down their throats, but because they realized they were witnessing one of the most remarkable performances that had been depicted on the screen in recent years in any genre.
Since Ledger's untimely death and the ending of 's iconic Dark Knight franchise, talk has naturally turned to the idea of the next Joker, or the next interpretation of the character, at least. While it may be inevitable that a hot young actor will take on the role of the Joker, I want to put forward a case to let the character rest, at least for a little while. I think I'd be comfortable seeing the Joker onscreen again somewhere around 2018 or later. Until then, here's why Heath's Joker can not and should not be replaced anytime soon, and even then, nobody will ever top his performance:
1) His Joker was truly evil
What I loved about the Heath's Joker was the fact that his character genuinly seemed to have lust for upsetting others. Obviously he had big grand scale operations happening in and around the city, but it was the small stuff that he used to twist the knife that made him so engaging. Part of bringing Harvey Dent down to his level was to illustrate the order in chaos and the power of rules and societal norms have on normal folks. But, I also got the impression he did it because it made him happy. He enjoyed Harvey's pain, it wasn't a necessary evil to prove a point, it was something he deeply enjoyed doing that came with a twisted morality as a bonus.
Every other Joker I've ever seen on the screen has seemed too much like he's playing a game. He has a plan, a map, a schedule, and playing pieces. Heath's Joker had all these, but he took delight in seeing them unfold in chaotic ways, even when they failed, he had a warped ace up his sleeve.
2) His Joker was truly deranged
Insanity! Every Joker claims to be riddled with it, but untill Heath's Joker took to the screen, I didn't believe it. People may say he had too many plans and schemes to be totally insane, but even the lowest functioning mental patients have shown to have cognitive reasoning on a basic level. The Joker was able to be totally insane and a master planner, evidenced by his persistant animalistic behavior, a repeated death wish, a contantly changing but well thought out goal, and obssession and the insinuation that he had harmed himself. You want to know how he got those scars? He did it to himself.
3) His Joker was young and vital
For our modern world we need a young and sexy James Bond. A young and sexy Doctor Who. A young and sexy Superman. A young and sexy Spider-Man. If you want to make bank, go younger, keep your character in tune with the audience and they'll respond to it. Heath's Joker wasn't just a twenty something with a perfect looking face, he was dark as shit and messed up. Not dark in the way movies have traditionally portrayed villains, but dark like people our age worry about friends who maybe talk weirdly about the government or snort bath salts. We all have friends that do that, right? Man, I hope that's not just me...
I have a friend who doesn't even like Batman (or movies really for that matter), and he sits in my house (when I rarely invite him over) and says all sorts of weird stuff that wouldn't sound strange coming out of the Jokers mouth. To me, Ledger's Joker was real. Well, as real as a scary guy in clown make-up could be, because clowns never hurt anyone right?
4) His Joker was the best ever written
There's not a lot to choose from when it comes to onscreen Jokers. We have in 1989's Batman, Caeser Romero in 's famed TV show and... that's it really. could be counted in animated form perhaps, but he was never TRULY targeted at adult audiences, except for maybe when he killed Jason Todd. With much deference to Ledger, you still have to credit the Nolan brothers with writing such a fantastically complex character. The lines of dialogue so whip smart, the scenarios so intense; a great script makes a great character, and none of the previous Jokers had material like this to work with.
5) His Joker was like nothing we'd ever seen before
Forget previous Jokers and concentrate purely on the performance of Heath Ledger the actor, and the character he created. Have you ever seen ANYTHING like that before? The line deliveries, the facial tics, the seething madness beneath a masquerade of performance madness. Has ANY of that been depicted on screen before? Perhaps it has here, but that's it in my book. Heath created a character so unique and watchable that we couldn't tear our eyes away from the screen. His movements and mannerisms, his choices as an actor were unlike anything I'd ever seen before in a movie, let alone a Batman movie. Forget the Joker, forget Gotham, forget Batman, this was a man tapping into something primal, or at least something foreign. It blew me away.
Those are my reasons, and I'm sticking to them -- but I'm interested in your perspective. Let me know what you think of Ledger's performance, and whether or not it should be enshrined as the last performance of the Joker on the big screen, if it should eventually be replaced, and if so, can even the best performance stand up to it?