Anyone who knows me personally or read my previous BOF op-eds knows how much of a Joker fan I am. He’s one of the most interesting, deadly and unpredictable villains in comics and a favourite not just among fans of the Batman comics, but among the mainstream audience as well. More often than not, The Joker brings an extra special something to a Batman story so you can imagine my excitement at the end of Batman Begins when Lieutenant Gordon hands Batman a joker card from a crime scene.
I loved Batman Begins for what it did for Batman as a character and the superhero film genre. As soon as I walked out of that theater, I began thinking what could be done with Joker in the world Christopher Nolan presented in his film and eagerly anticipated a sequel. It was a bit of a surprise to see a year later Heath Ledger cast as the Clown Prince, but I was intrigued at the casting rather than one of the voices against it. I began following almost every scrap of information regarding the film as I could (much of that info coming from this very site).
It’s hard for me to describe the level of anticipation I felt in the months leading up to The Dark Knight’s release, but I’m sure many of you felt that same level of excitement. I did have some fear, however, because the previous summer of 2007 I was incredibly excited for Spider-Man 3 and was let down hard on that film. I learnt a valuable lesson on keeping my expectations in check for The Dark Knight, but had trouble doing so. When I finally sat down on opening night for The Dark Knight, I just hoped the film would at least be good.
Suffice it to say The Dark Knight wasn’t just good, but blew me away. There is so much for Batman fans to love in this movie, from the characterizations of Batman, Joker, Harvey Dent and more to the story and way it was filmed. Nolan delivered a strong and powerful sequel that doubled down on how great Batman is while redefining for the modern audience why The Joker is one of the greatest fictional villains ever made.
The deconstruction of the Batman/Joker rivalry in this film is some of the best I’ve ever seen. It easily ranks as one of my favorite “origin stories” for The Joker and why he’s obsessed with Batman. It shows why they’re such perfect foils for each other and opposites in almost every way. By the end of the film, when Joker declares that he could never kill Batman and they’ll be doing this dance forever you believe it.
Just take a look at the interrogation scene between these two, a scene which I not only named the top Joker scene in a previous BOF piece, but still believe is the best scene in a superhero film. From the way the scene is lit to how Joker breaks Batman down to his essential core and why he may ultimately never win against crime is captivating. He mixes truth with lies and you begin buying into his philosophy on how the world is corrupt and he’s merely the one pulling the wool from people’s eyes.
The Dark Knight isn’t just a Joker story, though. The heart of the film doesn’t even come from Batman, but Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent. A strong argument can be made that Harvey is actually the main character as the plot revolves entirely around him and his fall from grace. It is Joker’s objective right from the very start of the film to bring down Gotham’s White Knight and though you know it will follow the same trajectory of the comics where he becomes Two-Face, you don’t want it to thanks to Echkhart’s portrayal and just how much of a good man Harvey is.
Of course, though, the film also doesn’t shy away from some of Harvey’s negative qualities, such as his hypocrite statement that he knows the risks of taking the mob on and is ready to face them (no pun intended). When Rachel is held hostage and ultimately killed, he puts the blame on Gordon and Batman for their failure to save her rather than also placing blame on himself to not thinking she could be in danger too and taking more steps to save her. Nevermind the fact that Rachel also accepted those same risks alongside him and would have been ashamed of his turn to darkness.
The Dark Knight is a film filled with layers upon layers. Whenever I watch it I always seem to walk away with something new from it. It is incredibly important to the superhero genre by making people realize what these films can be when they strive for more than just popcorn adventures with the heroes punching out the villains. It is everything I wanted from a Batman film and Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and most importantly Heath Ledger knocked it out of the park. It is an incredibly important film for me as a fan and I will always be thankful and awestruck by The Dark Knight. – Ricky Church