Batman, along with Superman, is the biggest pop culture icon and the most recognizable fictional character around the world. Everybody everywhere knows who Batman is and can recognize the Bat symbol.
Batman's character has a very long history dating all the way back to the late 1930's, and with time took a very different approach from it's intiall concept. As the readers became younger and younger, Batman became a kiddie character prancing around in a blue-grey outfit with Robin on his side fighting UFO's , dinosaurs, outlandish villains and crooks.
That was the image of Batman's world until Tim Burton gave it a complete makeover in a dark, gothic style. The movie was one of the most promoted ever (along with T2 and Titanic) and a huge hit, both commercially and criticially. The ridiculous sequels ruined the series to the point where it had to be rebooted VERY soon after it started.
I can't put my finger on it, but I'm pretty sure this is the shortest period of time between a remake and the original. Of course, Burton's movies didn't need to be re-done. They are as relevant today as they were in the early 90's, done in the typical, gothic, dark humour Burton way. It's the sequels that caused the reboot
But it's not Batman I want to focus on. It's his arch enemy - Joker
Joker is almost as known as Batman himself. Starting out as a maniac murderer in the early comic books, transforming into a harmless small time crook and bank robber, Joker is an iconic pop culture character as well.
The hottest and most controversial debate going on right now is about who was a better Joker - Burton's or Nolan's? You can find it on virtually every Batman forum, every youtube video comments, every off topic sections everywhere. Every newspaper reviewer and critic joins the debate. Every tv spot, its the war of two fanbases.
What I wanna do in this article is to present the two characters while also expresing my own opinions and take on the whole issue, and I'm very interested in your opinions as well, so Im waiting for the comments! Let's go then
1.Jack Napier/Joker (Jack Nicholson)
First of all, I do have to mention that Jack Nicholson is THE guy with the most Oscars and Oscar nominations. Love the guy and almost every movie with him, he's just great. I did hear some comments thought, that he is playing the same guy in every movie. I would disagree althought I understand why someone might think so. Anyway, Jack was undeniably great. He fit very well in that role, as Joker was portrayed in its original style, as 1950's gangster
Burton's Joker is a perfect example of Burton's characters. He has some of the Beetlejuice characterictics in him, that twisted dark humour and grotesque look. And here I want to mention that in visual department, this Joker wins for me hands down. His permanent un-human smile is creepy and scary, which is a great contrast - the result of a failed plastic surgery resembles a smile, yet so grotesque that it's scary. Tim did a great job in making him look like a true horror villain without exaggerating it (unlike the silly sequels that showed villains in silly cartoonish, circus like outfits)
Joker was a psychopath maniac. He was absolutely twisted and sick,and unlike any other villain or murderer we've ever seen. He went competely nuts after his accident and many people said they were really freaked by the scene where he 'fries' the mob boss and then talks to his burnt body. Completed with Elfman's unique, operatic-like score, the scene was really creepy and showed that this is truly a person who completely lost it. He was murdering people and then acting silly and like clown, which was very disturbing. It gave you the sense how nuts he is, and we know the more nuts someone is, the more dangerous and unpredictable he is.
Another thing is that in this movie, Joker is also the one who killed Bruce's parents. That makes him that more evil, showing that he was involved in crime and mob business from his early years, and also made him the one Bruce wanted his whole life. He is the reason it all happened, the one who stumped on Bruce's life and took everyone he loved in a second. That fact makes him that much more important
One of only few differences between Burton's and Nolan's Batman is that Burton's movies had that Operatic feel. He showed most stuff visdually and Elfman provided emotions and scene descriptions with his music. it was really more of an Opera
2.The Joker (Heath Ledger)
To be honest I haven't seen any of the movies with Heath, althought I'm familiar with his movies. Of course, it's a terrible tragedy that such a young person and a rising star died so young. I realized that despite the sad passing of Heath, I have to judge his work unbiased - judge it simply for his performance, not because he is not with us anymore. I think that might be the case with some. Ive seen one of his last interviews in which he discussed playing Joker, and he said that it was his best and most exciting role .
Nolan went with a very real life approach. The movie has none of the so called super villains and is completely soaked with realism which is one of the movie's biggest appeal. Everyone loves Nolan's Batman as well because its a return to Burton's darkness, yet with a slightly different approach. Nolan tried to avoid any exagerrated characters, and make everything as believable as possible. One critic said the movie's so real and clear action, that with cutting Batman out its a movie in the vein of Departed or other action/crime movies, its very serious. As Scarecrow was in Begins, Joker here got a "realism makeover". He is simply a cruel murderer and he doesnt scare with looks or other-worldy characteristics - he scares us simply with human anger and violence
He also seems intelligent and serious in some sense. He is an Anarchist and creates chaos. He is not funny or humorous at all, his 'humor' is more like a sarcasm and you realize he is a dangerous nut all the time. What makes this Joker interpretation work is that he doesnt seem like a comic book villain at all, visually AND in behavior wise, yet the traces of the classic Joker look are there (sweated off makeup).
Nolan stayed more true to the comic book vision as far as Bruce's parents' killer goes. In Begins, he is a crook named Joe Chill and I like the ironic death of that character - ironic for Bruce AND Joe. Even tho Joker isnt the guy who did the deed, the personal fight is there as well since, not wanting to reveal much, he's toying with Batman
As mentioned before, Nolan took a very different approach from Burton - he went for the pure realism of the characters and situations
Both approaches are great if you ask me, and theyre really apples and oranges. Hard to compare them, but I can say I absolutely love both. Its sad that the critics and fans of Nolan's take feel the need to constantly put Burton's movies down just to elevate the new movies, while in reality theyre almost the same in theme. theyre both as dark as dark can be. There's more violence with Nolan, but more violence doesnt mean darker. Only the approach is different. Also its sad that Nolan's fanbase has many teenagers who, as we know, hate all thats old (translation: all thats "last week", or not on top at the time) and absolutely "poop" on the original movies just for the sake of it.
As with Batman movies, I think both Jokers were absolutely THE best in their role. Apples and Oranges again, but both outstanding.
If you would force me to choose one, I'd go with Jack tho.
What do YOU think?