I am beyond trying to put a value judgment on Heath Ledger's performance. I really don't know that it's possible at this point. The Joker just... is. It's hard to remember that there's an actor in there and that someone actually sat down and wrote those lines for Ledger to recite, and that the Joker didn't just show up on set one day. You know, as moviegoers, we don't get to see the times where Heath Ledger had fun and joked around on set and talked about his daughter or music or skateboarding or whatever, and then went home and started filming another movie, and moved on with his life (or what time he had left). All we have is this movie, and as far as we can tell--or at least, it's tempting to think--that one man walked into the makeup trailer and another walked out, and that the first one was never seen again. That's not what happened, and as Christian Bale points out in some interview or other, to think of it that way comes from a lack of understanding of how acting really works. But it's tempting to think.
As for the Joker himself--we discussed this in a bit more depth on padparadscha's journal (she talks about the Joker as a trickster god), but at first, I thought the last time we saw the Joker was kind of anticlimactic, until I realized that... that's how it is. He's not a person, he's a force. He doesn't have an origin, an end or a beginning. He showed up in Gotham one day and turned it upside down until he was done, and then we didn't see him anymore, but he'll never go away. There's no point to showing him being carted away in handcuffs or locked away in an asylum, no more than there is in showing how he got his Glasgow smile in the first place, and I think Christopher Nolan realized that. (By the way, my personal theory as to how he got it, since he's obviously lying about it in the movie? I think he's so goddamn crazy that he cut up his own face, just because he felt like it. And rather than a disfiguring scream, as described at the link, he laughed. Because that's just how his freak flag flies. It's as good an explanation as any, to the extent that we need one at all, which we don't.) But I was still not all that satisfied with his storyline until I realized that the last we saw of the Joker, he was hanging upside down. What I said at padparadscha's:
It was like a literal image of the Twelfth Night Lord of Misrule, when everything is reversed. (You even see specific reversals, like the clowns being the "hostages" at the end and so on.) It was also the image of the Hanged Man in the tarot deck, although that has a different meaning--usually sacrifice or submission? I don't know how much you can read into that. I guess you could argue that the Joker wants you to give in to chaos, to the temptation to stop fighting for what's right (the way he thought the people on the two ferries would give in to their worst instincts). But I don't know how well the Hanged Man aspect can be argued, when the trickster/Lord of Misrule is so much more present.Aaron Eckhart has such a different role that I'm not sure I can compare the two performances--we are looking at one character who is the very essence of unchanging and unexplained and unceasingly scary (which is a hard enough tapdance to keep up), and another who has this epic character arc of changing from hero to villain. I mean, I'm sure it's been done before, but I can't think of another role offhand with such a tragic 180-degree tumble from one to the other. We're talking about a guy who goes from being the tough-on-crime savior of the city to a man who thinks that killing a young child would somehow be the answer to his own grief. I mean, damn. And there's a point where Harvey Dent is as scary as the Joker, if not more so--maybe because we do understand him.
But more importantly to what you're saying, nothing happened to the Joker--I mean, we're left to surmise that law and order and/or the asylum took care of him, but there's no point in Nolan showing that because he just... is. He's a force, not a person. He's literally above the law.
One of the things that surprised me, though, was the realization that this was a two-villain movie, not just The Joker Is Bad, Let's Set Up the Next Movie's Villain in the Last Ten Minutes. No, Two-Face was the other villain, the second third or so of the movie was his, and his ultimate fate (and what it meant for Batman) was what the movie was about, not deferred for a third movie. In that sense, The Dark Knight is about a man--well, let's shift back to Bruce/Batman for a moment--a vigilante who finds someone he himself comes to believe in, a legitimate hero he's ready to hand his mantle over to, and then he finds out that maybe the world is such an ugly place that things that are good and beautiful can't stay pure, can't survive. He's already too compromised to be a hero--so he'll have to be an antihero, he'll have to take the fall, so that no one good and clean and pure gets eaten up instead. Poor Bruce, who just wanted to try to get on with his life and step down the way he was supposed to and be with Rachel. I'm sorry, I just have something in my eye, I'll be over here for a little while.
(God bless Christian Bale, who is getting very little attention in the reviews. And I love him, and I think he's the best Batman so far, but... the Batman Voice is getting a little silly. And yet I appreciate the effort, because with the others, you wonder how no one figured out Batman's true identity. At all. Ever. I mean, Vicki Vale slept with the guy and she can't even recognize Michael Keaton's voice? Come on.)
As for the rest of the cast, I always enjoy watching Morgan Freeman inform someone that they've been pwned. And I always look forward to Cuddly Gary Oldman. I knew they couldn't kill off Gordon (NOOOOO! Y SO SIRIUS, GARY OLDMAN?) but then he kept not coming back and I got scared. And then I remembered that I hadn't seen half his scenes in the trailer yet (whew). On the other hand, I am stunned that
(Was that actually Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow? Someone told me beforehand that it wasn't, so when the Scarecrow actually showed up, I was like, "That guy totally has the crazy eyes, but yeah, they're not quite the same, and his voice doesn't sound right. Too American?" But on IMDB, it says it was Murphy. So... what?)
>> My favorite part of the movie had to be the long chase sequence where they were transferring Harvey Dent to county jail (right? I got lost in the awesome around there), in no small part because I was convinced that shit was going to go down (obviously), but that it could go down from any direction. The SWAT guy inside the van with Dent kind of looked like Heath Ledger around the eyes, so I started freaking out that it was the Joker under the mask, until of course he actually showed up ("Is that a bazooka?" ). And then the Batpod was what was left of the CAR? And he flipped THE TRUCK? And it was AWESOME? That whole section is pretty much the one reason I want to see the movie in IMAX, because I'm pretty sure everything else will just make me throw up, but that? That I want to see.
>> And I am always happy to see William Fichtner. Particularly if he has a shotgun.
>> You know what freaked my audience out the worst? Not the "magic trick." The part where Batman dropped Sal Maroni, and he landed on his ankles and YOU SAW THEM GO CRUNCH. OH MY GOD WE ALL SCREAMED.
>> The scene where Bruce and "Natasha" or whoever joined Rachel and Harvey for dinner? Yeah. I think by the end of it, Bruce and Harvey were, like, in love.
>> The part where Dent and Gordon stand there on the roof bitching at each other while Batman just stands here cracked me up. Because of course he has this severe glower on his face, because with that mask on, he can't really do anything else, so it was just like, "YOU GUYS, I AM A VERY BUSY SUPERHERO SO WHY DON'T YOU JUST CALL ME WHEN YOU'RE DONE."
>> I was spoiled for the Joker in the nurse's costume, dammit. I wasn't spoiled for him waddling outside and futzing with his detonator, though. Or his Harvey Dent sticker (big laugh from our audience). Or the Joker taking off his nurse wig like he just couldn't stand it anymore, which cracked me up for some reason. Hee.
>> Tiny Lister was awesome. "I'm gonna do what you shoulda done ten minutes ago." Damn, that was hardcore. And I never thought I'd say that about a scene about not blowing people up.
>> The part about Batman blithely violating everyone's civil liberties with the cellphone scanner didn't bother me, and you know why? Maybe Nolan was assuming too much of the audience, but I felt like we were supposed to react with dismay, he assumed we would in the current political climate (where even Republican candidates don't want anything to do with Bush), and he didn't want to oversell it. He would simply show Batman doing it, have
>> The end about Batman taking the fall for what Harvey did and having to go on the run made me so sad, and yet I feel like it was foreshadowed by a late chunk of Batman Begins, where the freakout fear powder or whatever it was makes people see him as a terrifying monster. That said, I thought Gary Oldman's final monologue was a bit much, if only because I am very against books and movies actually mentioning their own titles, much less as the last line. I kept waiting for his poor kid to be like, "Dad? I just wanted to know why they're all being so mean to Batman. Look, it's been a long day and I'm still getting over being kidnapped by Crispy down there, can we go home now?"