Ledger fans want Joker removed
Some Heath Ledger fans out there are petitioning for his penultimate film role to be immortalised forever by removing the Joker from all future Batman films. From any studio. Forever.
While I agree that this is marks the best portrayal of the Joker that we've ever seen, I am far from agreeing that we should never see the character again in film because the actor has died while filming another movie.
Readers of Filmstalker will already know that I am far from agreeing that Heath Ledger should win every award under the sun because of his Joker performance. While I think that the performance was excellent, I do think that credit is being hugely missed for the writing and the sound which really makes this character.
Sure Heath Ledger gives a great performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight (Filmstalker review), but is his performance better than that of Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading or Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt? I have my doubts.
The whole film elevated Batman, and along with it Ledger's Joker, into a different plane and was suddenly deemed much more relevant than a simple comic adaptation. The writing built that entire story around the villain and the character himself, and throw in the excellent sound that created so much tension when the character was on screen, and the acting is a much smaller part of it.
Don't get me wrong though, he is the best Joker there has been, but Hoffman and Pitt had so much less to rely on, and Hoffman in particular was all about the performance and the writing, the same could be said for Brendan Gleeson in In Bruges.
So to say that fans of Heath Ledger want the character he played in his second last performance to be removed from all future films is insane, especially since the character is an integral part of Batman. Joker is the opposite of Batman, he's the main villain, the main rival, and is always there in the Batman stories.
No, Batman can't do without the Joker.
What's there to fear anyway? Is someone else going to play the Joker better? Not according to these fans of Heath Ledger over at The Ultimate Joker site through CNN who have started the petition. The Buenos Aires owner of the site sees things very differently to me:
"We think Heath deserves this honor...He is the ultimate Joker...We are Batman fans from the comics and from the movies...After we saw The Dark Knight, we thought this Joker was really the best. It deserves to be withdrawn from any Batman sequels."
Withdrawn? Don't be daft.
"He upgraded the character in a thrilling way...Although a lot of actors would love the chance to play the Joker, as Batman fans and now Heath Ledger fans, we think no one could ever perform it as well as he did."
Referral to my previous comments regarding script, sound, direction and the rest of the film having some part to play in the building of the character.
"When Michael Jordan retired, they withdrew the number 23 jersey as an honor. It's the same thing with Heath."
Eh? Somewhat different, and this plays a little part in my inability to understand this Ledger-mania. Michael Jordan was a supreme basketball player at the top of his sport and is billed as the greatest basketball player of all time. Let me quote this from Wikipedia:
"Jordan's individual accolades and accomplishments include five MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances and three All-Star MVP, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP awards, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He holds the NBA record for highest career regular season scoring average with 30.12 points per game, as well as averaging a record 33.4 points per game in the playoffs. In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press's list of athletes of the century."
His career highlights are stunning, and just see the following three for some startling figures:
"Points: 32,292 Rebound: 6,672 Assists: 5,633"
That's staggering. You can see why they reserved that number for him ever since. He's the top of the entire sport.
Heath Ledger is not the best actor there has ever been. As Terry Gilliam said at the BAFTA's, we had not seen what he could have become, and there was definitely a great actor there waiting for the right role.
However looking at Heath Ledger's stats we see films I've never heard of during the days of his Home and Away television appearance, and such titles as 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, The Four Feathers, Ned Kelly, The Order, Casanova and Candy.
Out of that I'd pick those last three titles as being his career highlights, but realistically his Brokeback Mountain role is his career defining moment, even if we still have his short appearance in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to see, his final film appearance.
Comparable to Michael Jordan? Far from it, and I struggle to find why the Joker character should be removed from all future Batman films because of his death, in fact I find it rather preposterous. There are many other great actors who you could request this of their roles, but Ledger, and at such an early stage of his career? Is this the modern equivalent of James Dean?