Essay: The Dark Knight — A Reflection on The Joker

I remember watching The Dark Knight and seeing Ledgers’ face as Joker. I thought to myself, “Joker with the Glasgow smile, now that’s dark!”

Quarantine puts many of us in a situation where we’re binge watching or catching up on shows and movies on the bucket list. The Dark Knight is not one of those films…I’ve seen it plenty times over. But with the pandemic and everything impacting the economy, I thought I’d give myself a chance to see what Joker’s message is 14 years later.

The Fairest Joker of Them All

Ledger (RIP) is the best Joker I’ve seen. All respects to Jack Nicholson, I think he nailed it for that film at that particular point in time. However, Ledger took the character to another level that made the world fall in love again with the Batman mythology. (Also, I don’t really know how to interpret Jared Leto’s Joker except for the fact that it reminds me of a 2006 Lil Wayne meets Krusty the Clown).

Anyways, here’s a key difference between Ledger and Phoenix’s Jokers:
Ledger — his version of Joker reflected an agent of chaos.
Phoenix — his version of Joker reflected an initiate into chaos.

The performance that Joaquin Phoenix provides as Arthur Fleck in the 2019 film Joker shows the origins of Joker and how he grew to become a villain in Gotham City. His character loses trust in humanity as his character goes through traumatic experiences that build up to the tipping point. Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight shows a man who’s already past the tipping point. He’s made a name for himself at this stage and wants to reach a career height by “killing the order” or those that influence law and order in society. His agency for chaos is sophisticated enough that he makes the argument for anarchy in society to come in doses. (quick note: some might argue that Bane’s actions reflect the application of chaos whereas Joker’s actions reflect the merits of its theory).

When Joker Initiates Two-Face

Here’s a scene with Harvey Dent (now turned into the Two-Face). Joker is initiating him into the dark side so he can embrace the criminal philosophy of introducing chaos to disrupt the political order.

R.I.P. Heath Ledger — this was one of the most intense roles I’ve ever seen an actor embrace. He nailed it in his own right. Not to take anything away from to the other actors that’ve played Joker, but the way Ledger did really fits into what Nolan offers with the Dark Knight trilogy. An introduction of the mythology into a world that fuses practicality of surroundings. The characters, though fake, are meant to feel like real situations.

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Stephen Ngao

Stephen Ngao

Aspiring entrepreneur in love with music, film, finance, and tech. Carpe diem!