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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Ranking the Jokers that have graced both the silver and big screen

From legendary Ledger to lesser known Hamill

The Joker is the iconic sociopath who exists within the DC Comic universe and serves as Batman’s enemy. He is shrouded in mystery, with no definitive origin story. Anyone who attempts to portray the character has immense pressure from the public to do justice to the mad character. In light of the recent release of the movie “Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular villain, it’s worth reviewing who has dared to don the makeup and become the “Clown Prince of Crime.”  

Jared Leto, “Suicide Squad”

In “Suicide Squad,” Jared Leto used method acting techniques to capture the essence of the Joker. Leto kept his castmates and the crew on edge, even going as far as to send a decapitated pig’s head to every cast member. Even though he tried to invoke fear through his strange tactics, his acting in the film felt off. There weren’t enough scenes to develop the Joker character in the film, and when he was on screen, it felt like he wasn’t needed. Margot Robbie pulled off a great version of Harley Quinn, but because of Jared Leto, the audience couldn’t grasp a genuine connection between their characters. Clearly DC agrees, as Leto will not be featured in the upcoming “Birds of Prey,” which features Harley Quinn terrorizing Gotham on her own.

Mark Hamill, “Batman: The Animated Series”

In “Batman: The Animated Series,” Mark Hamill did a fantastic job with his voice acting, creating a chilling and memorable Joker. Even though we are unable to see Hamill’s facial expressions, his voice alone cultivates the mentally unstable villain who finds humor in inflicting pain and terror in the citizens of Gotham. Hamill is able to keep his voice filled with humor and delight, which is a bit chilling given his career choice, but that shows how much he truly understands the role and motivations of the clown.

Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”

“The Dark Knight” allowed Heath Ledger to become the epic Joker everyone needed. Ledger mentioned in an interview with The New York Times how mentally and physically drained he was after one scene where he put in all his energy to create an entirely different Joker. Ledger captured the Joker identity — a villain who is intimidated by nothing and finds everything a joke. Ledger, who passed away before the film’s release, created a version of the Joker that now serves as the bar for every reincarnation. It is impossible to understate the power of Ledger’s performance.

Jack Nicholson, “Batman” 

Jack Nicholson originated the role of the Joker as we know him on the big screen. This 1989 film became a testament to Tim Burton’s directing chops. Burton’s signature dark tone set the standard. Nicholson breathed life into the Joker, carrying over some of the same traits he made popular in “The Shining.” With Burton’s help, Nicholson established the key characteristics the Joker would become known for. If Nicholson hadn’t walked, Ledger wouldn’t have been able to run. 

Written by: Gabriela Hernandez — arts@theaggie.org 

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