“Joker” is out in theaters this weekend, and I believe that Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as Batman’s iconic villain is very good and worthy of award consideration. Some are saying it’s the best portrayal ever of the character ever.
It’s not. And the film itself wasn’t particularly very good (review HERE).
No, the title of “The Best Joker” ever still goes to Heath Ledger in the “Dark Knight”.
Phoenix’s Joker is a villain that is discovering himself. Given this is one of the biggest bad guys in the history of popular culture, I think that shortchanges the audience’s experience. This version is frail (as you can see in the trailer) and never did I find him as a serious threat.
And what good is a villain that you’re not scared of?
Ledger’s Joker is an absolute menace.
From the opening scene of “The Dark Knight” you can’t take your eyes off of him and you’re genuinely frightened for the protagonists in the story that have to cross paths with him. He’s anything but frail and holds his own with anyone else in the story.
I’ve heard some online saying that Ledger’s Joker never got the kind of praise that Phoenix’s performance is currently getting.
And that’s just plain inaccurate. Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for supporting actor that year.
Now, I’m not trashing Phoenix’s version. In fact, you cast a lesser committed actor in “Joker” then that is a really bad film. It’s lead performance is almost it’s only redeeming quality.
There are some who also like Jack Nicholson’s Joker from 1989’s Batman. I can respect that choice as well.
But as far as the best Joker. It’s still Ledger.