Again

What…another Dark Knight reviewer doing cartwheels over Heath Ledger‘s Joker? Is this getting tedious or just repetitive? We get it already. Brilliant demonic channeling. The guy’s going to win a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Warner Bros. will almost certainly run a full-on Oscar campaign on his behalf. Now can we talk about something else, please? I feel like I’m getting beaten over the head here.

Ledger “presents himself as The Joker in a role that defines a career,” writes Rope of Silicon‘s Brad Brevet. “It is unimaginable it would come to the point that a film based on a comic-book character could actually have such an impact on one person. On a generation. Ledger’s decent into what is, and has become, The Joker makes Jack Nicholson’s interpretation look like nothing more than a simple clown.
“‘Wait’ll they get a load of me,’ Jack said 19 years ago. Wait until you get a load of Heath!
The Dark Knight presents a character so destructive and without a care for those landing in his path of decimation that you are left to your own devices. Love him. Hate him. Hate to love him or love to hate him, director Christopher Nolan has guided an actor into a dark realm not often realized. The Joker finds his place alongside villains that go by the name of Hannibal, Scarface and John Doe himself. A nameless, unrecognizable entity you won’t be willing to or able to admit is Ledger until the credits roll.”

34 thoughts on “Again

  1. While I have no doubt that Ledger is good, one has to wonder if the praise would be so effusive were he still with us.

  2. I’m salivating over this film, but have to agree with Monument. I have no doubts that Heath Ledger will blow people away, but you have to doubt if some of it isn’t because the guy is passed.
    On the flip side, after the film is released and the general public does backflips over Ledger’s Joker, it would also suck for his death to be cited as the reason for all the praise.
    At any rate, I’m with Jeff and Monument that this is starting to get a tad repetitive. Perhaps had they started beating the Oscar drums within only a week-week and a half tops, people won’t be sick of the hype before the movie even hits.
    Regardless, I’m so freaking there. Also the Watchmen trailer will debut in front of it, so the geek boner will be ragin’;.

  3. The backlash has already kicked in, and the movie doesn’t even open for another 19 days. The greatness of Ledger’s Joker is half about the acting, and half about him being dead…right? The next phase will be the counter-backlash that says “dead or alive, it’s a great performance.”

  4. Wells to Redmond: Uhm…i wasn’t being sincere in expressing pique at the Heather-Joker praise. It’s only been with us for two days. I was pretending to be too cool for school. Only two or three people who attended the Bridge screening have weighed in. Perspective, dude.

  5. Yes. It’s gonna get boring when you read each isolated review and they all say the same thing.
    But what did you *expect*?
    Look, after “Batman Begins” people were gonna get geeked out over “The Dark Knight” regardless of who the villains happened to be and who happened to be playing them.
    And the presence of the Joker guaranteed additional geeking out, because it’s the franchise’s iconic character and everybody was going to be in a rush to compare whoever played the role to the the most famous person to play it. Caesar Romero. Would the new Joker be as cool as Caesar Romero? Would he be as fiercesome as Caesar Romero? Would he be able to step out of Caesar Romero’s shadow?
    I kid. But only a little. The hype was unavoidable even if some unknown theater actor had been cast as The Joker.
    Well then you throw in Heath Ledger. And the fanboys were abuzz about the casting from the beginning. People were geeking out from the first still photos from the shoot. The hype was already exhaustive. I mean, this was already an Oscar nominated young actor with a history of occasional wacky characterizations.
    And *then* he DIES?
    I don’t wanna sound cynical, but it was a perfect storm and there’s nothing to be gained from getting frustrated that the hype is building around Ledger. It was going to happen anyway, even if he’d survived. Is it louder and more urgent now? Well duh. But it would have been there anyway.
    And Jeff, if you’re going to spend the next 20 days posting every single review that raves about Ledger’s performance, complaining about how the hype is too much for you… Well, that’s gonna be a pain for you, because I’d wager everybody’s going to say some variation on the same thing: Ledger’s performance is admirable. Some will say it with hyperbole. Some will say it without enough adjectives to satisfy you. Some will try to underplay it because everybody else has said it better. But 95% of reviewers are gonna say it: Ledger is great in the movie.
    And what do you want ‘em to say? I mean… He is *great* in the movie. I’m pretty confident that dead or alive, Ledger’s performance would still be pretty awesome.
    The use a completely irrelevant analogy that’s in no way the same, “Street Fighter” came out after Raul Julia’s death, but nobody tried saying his performance as Bison was Oscar worthy or excellent. Cuz it wasn’t.
    I am concerned, though. Warner Bros has to be overjoyed that the junketeers loved the movie, but the company can’t want three weeks of rapture to turn into backlash from the critics who didn’t get to be early adopters and whose expectations are raised to absurd levels. What are the odds at this point, Jeff, that you’re going to be able to just watch the movie with clear eyes? Low. I happen to think it’s a good enough movie that even if you go in with negativity, it’ll win you over, but still…

  6. Wells: I don’t know if it has been mentionned in another comment thread, but the RSS feed is not being updated in Google Reader since the Nothing To Praise post. Your RSS feed seems to have gone 404.

  7. Jeff, huge fan of the site, but I think you’re insincerity/sarcasm failed to come through on this one. Fien Print in his excellent post (Kudos to you, sir!) also caught the same vibe I did, that you were indeed growing weary of the constant praise.
    Which I guess, in hindsight, should’ve been a flag that something was amiss as you’ve been enjoying the praise (no doubt well-deserved) heaped upon Heath.
    So, in summary, my bad!

  8. I guess for Wells it only becomes “too much already” when it’s not something he’s completely behind. I loved Zodiac, but man, did he ever over talk about that film to the point of obsession.
    And it’s not as though this is one film critic raving about Ledger’s performance. If that was the case, that would get annoying. But these are separate reviews, by different critics. Is the latest critic to see the film simply supposed to write, “well, I’d like to say that I liked it but the other guys already said that.”
    Ridiculous. You’re not forced to read the reviews. Of course some of it is hype because he died. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. James Dean isn’t one of the top fifty actors ever and Kurt Cobain wasn’t any more talented than Eddie Vedder. We know that.
    Don’t read the reviews. Because my posting each of them here while simultaneously bitching about it, you’re part of the very thing that’s bugging you.

  9. I should’ve read all the posts before posting. I agree that the sarcasm didn’t come through in the post, but I’m sure it was there.

  10. I have not seen the movie of course but I am sure Heath is amazing. That said.. it is a very very showy role. A very over the top part if I can judge from the trailer. It does not look like there will be room for any subtlety or nuances.. and he is playing a very cool crazed character in what will be a very cool and intense movie. I am not sure what point I am making but it seems a tad unfair to hand him the Oscar at this stage of the game. There are 6 months of performances left to go in movies that are maybe less cool but where the actor has done a very awesome job. It would be nice if other actors had at least a chance of getting the gold statue.

  11. I am torn by performances like this. The word on the street is that this Joker has very little backstory or character development in the film; he’s basically just a psychopathic thug. Should be give someone an Oscar just because they play such an extreme role to the hilt??
    I had the same problem with Anthony Hopkins’ win for Hannibal Lecter. It’s truly an iconic performance, but is it big enough/compositionally complex enough to deserve the Oscar? Or was it given to him because it was the great Hopkins revelling in gore and monstrosity? I don’t know.
    I love most of Ledger’s performances; I think he was truly building a solid legacy when his time came. But I can’t imagine this performance is betteror more complex than his Innis Del Mar performance in BROKEBACK, a role for which he was denied an Oscar.
    He shouldn’t win simply for being dead.

  12. While I agree with the general thrust of this thread…
    Going into The Dark Knight, everyone knew that Nolan would create a long, complicated, multi-faceted story that aspired to be a great crime epic. Everyone knew that all of the other actors would give high-quality performances because A) they are all hardcore pros and B) almost everyone involved was also in the first film and delivered there too. Surely you wouldn’t expect anyone to be shocked at quality work from Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Christian Bale, etc.
    The only real variable, the ‘wild card’ if you’ll pardon the pun, is what artistic choices Heath Ledger would make in portraying The Joker? What would differ from Jack Nicholson, Caesar Romero, and Mark Hammill? What bits and pieces would resonate with which comic fans (a little Killing Joke here, a little Laughing Fish there, a dash of The Man Who Laughs, a bit of Gotham Central – Soft Targets here, etc)? How would the performance work with non-comic fans? These are the big questions that readers want answered and thus that is the main thrust of the reviews thus far. I presume we’ll see variation in the next two weeks when regular critic screenings start (after the long weekend, I’ve been told). But for now, the main question is ‘whither Ledger as Joker?’

  13. While nuance and backstory are always a good thing, sometimes they are not necessary when giving great performances that can be recognized with awards. Sometimes pure id is all that is needed. People will always respect a force of nature performance – I would argue that Judi Dench’s Queen Elizabeth winning role in Shakespeare in Loves is more about presence than backstory (like Hopkins Hannibal).
    With Supporting categories, I think the rules are usually a little more relaxed in what can or cannot be done to deserve an award.

  14. “James Dean isn’t one of the top fifty actors ever and Kurt Cobain wasn’t any more talented than Eddie Vedder…. ”
    Yes he is and YES HE WAS … read James Dean a biography by William Bast (a brilliant young actor’s life and art, told by the man who knew him best)

  15. Jeff, calm down, brother. We all put up with you whenever you’re slobbering over Guillermo Del Toro, or God help us, Wes Anderson. Just let it go, man, and let Heath have his last bit of daylight.

  16. Monument: “While I have no doubt that Ledger is good, one has to wonder if the praise would be so effusive were he still with us.”
    That’s how I felt about Jamie Foxx playing Ray Charles.
    redmond: “I have no doubts that Heath Ledger will blow people away, but you have to doubt if some of it isn’t because the guy is passed.”
    I doubt they even knew who Ledger was, even after they saw Brokeback Mountain. So if the guy succeeds as the Joker, they’ll probably attribute it to the drugs.
    Fien: “Well then you throw in Heath Ledger. And the fanboys were abuzz about the casting from the beginning. People were geeking out from the first still photos from the shoot.”
    Actually, the fanboys wanted Crispin Glover, and thought the photos looked dumb.
    Ray: “I am torn by performances like this. The word on the street is that this Joker has very little backstory or character development in the film; he’s basically just a psychopathic thug. Should be give someone an Oscar just because they play such an extreme role to the hilt??I had the same problem with Anthony Hopkins’ win for Hannibal Lecter. It’s truly an iconic performance, but is it big enough/compositionally complex enough to deserve the Oscar? Or was it given to him because it was the great Hopkins revelling in gore and monstrosity? ”
    I think the difference between Hopkins and Ledger is Hopkins played a psychopath who got his way through charm, not through force. I imagine the creep Ledger played isn’t charming as much as deceptive. That is, he takes advantage of people’s weaknesses to get what he wants. I hope it doesn’t end up being a thinly-veiled indictment of Bush, though.

  17. D.Z., that’s the first I’ve heard of Crispin Glover as the Joker. (Though not a bad idea.) I remember a huge rallying cry for Steve Buscemi.
    Regardless, Nolan made a smart choice that paid off in spades. When they do the third, and hopefully end it there keeping his vision of Batman a nice contained story, they do something like use unused footage of Heath or even, as much as the idea makes me cringe, use CGI to keep his Joker intact. Granted, they already did a recast with Maggie Gyllenhall, it’s not Nolan’s fault Tom Cruise surgically removed what little acting ability Katie Holmes had – then ate it. No one saw that coming.

  18. While I agree with the general thrust of this thread…

    Going into The Dark Knight, everyone knew that Nolan would create a long, complicated, multi-faceted story that aspired to be a great crime epic. Everyone knew that all of the other actors would give high-quality performances because A) they are all hardcore pros and B) almost everyone involved was also in the first film and delivered there too. Surely you wouldn’t expect anyone to be shocked at quality work from Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Christian Bale, etc.

    The only real variable, the ‘wild card’ if you’ll pardon the pun, is what artistic choices Heath Ledger would make in portraying The Joker? What would differ from Jack Nicholson, Caesar Romero, and Mark Hammill? What bits and pieces would resonate with which comic fans (a little Killing Joke here, a little Laughing Fish there, a dash of The Man Who Laughs, a bit of Gotham Central – Soft Targets here, etc)? How would the performance work with non-comic fans? These are the big questions that readers want answered and thus that is the main thrust of the reviews thus far. I presume we’ll see variation in the next two weeks when regular critic screenings start (after the long weekend, I’ve been told). But for now, the main question is ‘whither Ledger as Joker?’

  19. “I hope it doesn’t end up being a thinly-veiled indictment of Bush, though.”
    I’m starting to wonder if DZ is on the level.

  20. While nuance and backstory are always a good thing, sometimes they are not necessary when giving great performances that can be recognized with awards. Sometimes pure id is all that is needed. People will always respect a force of nature performance – I would argue that Judi Dench’s Queen Elizabeth winning role in Shakespeare in Loves is more about presence than backstory (like Hopkins Hannibal).
    With Supporting categories, I think the rules are usually a little more relaxed in what can or cannot be done to deserve an award.

  21. It was funnier when I didn’t realize you were referring to ‘V For Vendetta’. Now it’s just another sad beef you have against a movie and bring up for no paticular reason years after the movie was released to make some nonsensical point that you will also cling to long after anybody knows what the hell you’re talking about.

  22. “Now can we talk about something else, please? I feel like I’m getting beaten over the head here.”
    Could you please append this to every Obama post from now till November? Thanks.

  23. well, it comes and goes. It had been gone for a while, but now it’s starting to come back, strong. He says things that *almost* can’t be real… but then I see other sites and realize, to my chagrin, he’s not even close to the stupidest person on the Internet. When I scan the boards at the IMDb, suddenly DZ seems believable again.

  24. Why has AUNT SASSY been BANNED???
    I miss her insightful comments on film, and her bitchy commentary. She added a refreshing viewpoint to this site.
    FREE AUNT SASSY!!!

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