You heard it here first: the late Heath Ledger will win an
Academy Award for his defining, spine-tingling performance as
The Joker. Forget Cesar Romero's hamming it up on the campy
Sixties TV series. Ditto, Jack Nicholson's equally-over the top
rendition in the first screen adaptation of Batman back in 1989.
Ledger easily eclipses each of his predecessors via an
inspired interpretation of the character as a maniacal
misanthrope much more menacing than mirthful. Not that he
doesn't also have a full complement of laugh-inducing lines like
’Whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you stranger,’ ’I love
this job,’ and ’You know, you remind me of my father. I hated my
father.’ Still, what makes this incarnation of The Joker
unforgettable is that under that garish clown makeup is a
philosophical and downright scary psychopath with mayhem at the
top of his agenda.
accolades for The Dark Knight don't stop with Ledger, as the
picture itself happens to be not only the best blockbuster of
the summer, but perhaps the best comic book adaptation ever
brought to the big screen. And although it's awfully early to be
talking Oscar buzz, nominations also ought to be in order for
director Christopher Nolan (Memento) and for oft-overlooked
Christian Bale who delivers again as The Caped Crusader.
As for the plot, at the point of departure, we find Gotham
winning its battle against the underworld, thanks in no small
part to the efforts of Batman. Everything changes the day The
Joker shows up in town and pulls off a brazen bank robbery of a
fortune of laundered mob money during which he strategically
knocks-off each of his accomplices at the moment he no longer
needs their services.
Next, the double-crossing clown approaches the city's loose
confederation of crime bosses and offers, for a price, to kill
the vigilante on the brink of shutting down their embattled
syndicate. They reluctantly agree, which means Batman must match
wits as much as muscle with this most-worthy adversary.
Fortunately, his alter ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne, with the
help of his loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine) and genius
inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), is capable of outfitting
himself with a new line of state-of-the-art Bat gadgetry,
including a Batmobile, a Batsuit, a Batpod, Batdarts, Batsonar,
and so forth.
Yet, despite all the bells and whistles and eye-popping special
f/x, The Dark Knight is fated to be remembered unavoidably as
Heath Ledger's chilling swan song. At least he saved his best
performance for last.