What else can I say about this that has been expressed already? The Dark Knight is a seminal picture in that it has changed the way people looked at superheroes. This might be a movie involving the likes of Batman and The Joker but Director Christopher Nolan took this entry into his Bat-trilogy very seriously. There are consequences to everyone’s action and it is about as realistic as you can get in a heightened atmosphere. Like, the idea of The Joker as a home grown terrorist is much more terrifying than a dude killing people with clown fish. (It’s in the comics, go read it if you haven’t.) But we all know why we will remember this film forever and that’s one man: Heath Ledger.
The moment you see Ledger covered in his Joker make up you know this isn’t going to be your typical villain. At the time his casting was seen as totally bizarre and it wasn’t going to work. But I remember watching this in the theater (on opening weekend) and had goosebumps watching him perform. Literal goosebumps. The man plays Joker as one scary individual but somehow you are mesmerized by everything that comes out of his mouth. I don’t know if it is all Ledger, or the writing, or a good blend of everything; but this version of the Joker is one of the most compelling individuals in all of film. He is clearly a disturbed individual but the monologues he delivers aren’t necessarily….wrong. Also, I love how from beginning to end the man is also in control of the situation. Even in situations where he is surrounded by the good guys he never loses his cool and he always has some sort of plan. The scene below illustrates my point exactly:
The interrogation scene is why Ledger won the Oscar. You can say it was all because he passed and they did it out of respect. But Ledger acted the hell out of every scene he was in and this one is where I knew he had the award in the bag. That laugh he gives after Batman beats the hell out of him still haunts me to this day. It perfectly encapsulates what the Joker is in a nutshell. An insane maniac who derives pleasure out of misery and pain.
Now just remember when this film came out. This was a 2008 picture which came out right after Marvel Studios first outing in Iron Man. In a one-two punch the entire landscape of the action genre changed forever. Maybe not so much on WB’s end but how amazing is it that two comic book films helped make superheroes a legit form of entertainment? And with The Dark Knight it showcased how serious a comic book entity can be and how it doesn’t have to be a ‘nerd’ type of property. The film got nominated for Oscars and won two for crying out loud! (And not just the visual effects B.S. you see today) How cool is that?