Much like professional athletes are recognized for their contribution by retiring their jersey numbers, a devoted group of Heath Ledger fans are calling to retire the Joker from cinema forever to honour Ledger’s swan song. The Ultimate Joker is calling for a movement to stop anyone from trying to top Ledger’s Joker.
Not that it will matter, and not that a small group of fans trying will make a difference, but it brings the question. Should anyone try? My answer is yes. Absolutely yes.
FilmJunk tipped me off to this story:
A group of hardcore Ledger supporters have formed a website called The Ultimate Joker, which is trying to gather signatures to convince Warner Brothers to withdraw The Joker character from any and all future productions. They think no one will ever surpass his performance, and consequently, no one should even try.
“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 It deserves to be withdrawn from any Batman sequels… When Michael Jordan retired, they withdrew the number 23 jersey as an honor. It’s the same thing with Heath.”
I find this to be the least respectful tribute to an actor who left us tragically before his prime. I really thought we would see bigger and better things from Heath Ledger who really seemed to be coming into his own. And he really owned the Joker role and made it his own.
I agree, that to date, this version of the Joker is by far my favourite. Hands down. But lets add a little perspective here.
Back in 1989 there was a wild buzz about a Batman movie coming out. I stood in line that day for 9 hours to see the first screening at a local mall. And guess what? Jack Nicholson was the BEST Joker ever. His lines were instantly quotable (THIS TOWN NEEDS AN EMEMA!!) and he was deleriously unhinged psychotic Joker. No one was ever going to top that.
Roll forward to the announcement that Heath Ledger was going to play the Joker. Oh the lashing he got online. Everyone was in an uproar that this “nobody” was cast as the Joker. How it wouldn’t be a good fit. Then there was some shred of reality out there pointing out his Oscar nomination and some of his projects where he was good. The contraversy raged on until the film came out and Crow was on the menu. Ledger was a hit.
There is no question if he hadn’t left this mortal plane, if the character was to be used again in the franchise every effort (and pile of money) would be made to make him play the part again.
This is where I don’t agree with the movement to retire his character.
The character is SO much more than even Ledger brought to the role. Obviously everyone after Ledger will be measured by him just like Ledger was measured by what Nicholson did.
Granted the standard has been lifted and it will be VERY hard to find someone to bring something genuine and raise the bar again. But everyone thought there wouldn’t be anything that would top Nicholson’s Joker. This was a different type of Batman movie, so we needed a different Batman.
Ledger came out of no where and did a great job in a great movie. Ledger did what people thought was impossible.
Is it so hard to think that someone else might leap out of mediocrity and surprise us?