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The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

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The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Lightbeard » Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:05 pm

This is an extension of a discussion I was having with a friend earlier today. Does anyone else feel that the 1989 Jack Nicholson Joker was superior to Heath Ledgers performance?

Now I'm not saying Heath Ledger did a bad job but the Dark Knight Joker had shock value but after it wore off he seemed rather one-dimensional. He was a mysterious sadistic character without any origin who stayed virtually the same throughout the movie.

In contrast the Jack Nicholson Joker was one a well developed character. He murdered Batmans parents prompting, in essence creating his arch-enemy. We got to see Joker without his facepaint as a normal guy. We saw his transformation and breakdown following his dump into toxic waste. He had multiple sides to him and portrayed the more classic funny Joker.

It's a stupid argument but the forums are quite dead atm so I might as well ask people's opinions on the topic.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby bldavis » Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:12 pm

i loved ledgers performance in dark knight, and was a HUGE fan of his
but i agree with lightbeard

jack nicholson did a better job
while heaths was a sadistic maniac, thats all he was

jacks seemed to not just be about pure chaos for chaos' sake, but more of a purpose


also, i want to watch both movies again, just to compare more :lol:
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Arnock » Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:23 pm

Although I personally saw Heath as the better actor in his portrayal, Jack Nicholson's character seemed more interesting to me.


Most of the interest in Ledger's portrayal was in the fact that the joker had no backstory at all, he's just a psychopath who wants chaos for the sake of chaos. His utter lack of motives is what makes him effective.

However, beyond that, there's nothing, the character doesn't go much deeper than the fact that he likes to blow stuff up.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Trav » Fri Feb 04, 2011 3:20 pm

The interesting thing about the Tim Burton/Jack Nicholson version of the Joker is that it's the ONLY interpretation of the character with a definitive origin. The comics (which TDK alludes to) offers a few different possibilities, and the Joker himself "prefers multiple choice."

The 1989 Joker is more of a personal villain to Batman. They create each other, essentially, as we see play out in the movie. Since he has a clear origin, he also has fairly clear motives (first revenge on his old boss, then trying to remake the world around him into his grinning image).

On the other hand, the Nolan/Ledger Joker is Batman's complete antithesis. Batman is a force of order, whose origins can be traced to a single event from his past. The Joker is a force of chaos who offers multiple possibilities of his past. Outside of "fucking with people to a murderous degree," we're never truly privy to his motives, which I find makes him more interesting. Like someone who would exist in the world of Gotham City, we can only speculate. (It also opens a window into how someone may view Batman in that world, with that same mystery).

As for acting performances, both were incredible. Nicholson may have been more true to both the comics and Cesar Romero's version. Ledger's was a thing of its own, however. (admittedly, both are a function of script and director as well as actor). It's really hard for me to compare.

I guess I like Ledger's version better, but for the same character, they are very different, and both are very good.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Gorlando » Fri Feb 04, 2011 8:55 pm

Arnock wrote:Although I personally saw Heath as the better actor in his portrayal, Jack Nicholson's character seemed more interesting to me.


Exactly my thoughts. I think this conversation is more about the writing of the character than how he was portrayed in the film. It was Ledger's job to act out the character, not write the script.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Snake-Aes » Sat Feb 05, 2011 3:31 am

Gorlando wrote:
Arnock wrote:Although I personally saw Heath as the better actor in his portrayal, Jack Nicholson's character seemed more interesting to me.


Exactly my thoughts. I think this conversation is more about the writing of the character than how he was portrayed in the film. It was Ledger's job to act out the character, not write the script.

There's a blur between the two so unless you know both writer, director and actor well you can't tell which is which. And Ledger did us the little favor of failing to exist before much scrutiny could be made.

That said, both characters have a strong appeal for me. In both cases they just can't be ignored, either by the victims or by the audience. I don't like Batman but these jokers really shine. I'd go with Ledger's though. Anthropomorphic "Violent Chaos" has an appeal all its own.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Skye1013 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:43 am

To be honest... I've never really cared for Nicholson's version. It's probably my least favorite of all the Batman movies. Can I give you a specific reason as to why? No, I just don't like it.

On the flip side... I loved Ledger's version, it's my favorite of all the movies and I wish he was still around to reprise the role in the future. Again, I can't really quantify why I like it, but I do.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Arnock » Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:34 am

Lightbeard wrote: We got to see Joker without his facepaint as a normal guy.



IIRC, the "face paint" was how his face actually looked, and he put the makeup on to try to seem normal.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Skye1013 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:38 am

Arnock wrote:
Lightbeard wrote: We got to see Joker without his facepaint as a normal guy.



IIRC, the "face paint" was how his face actually looked, and he put the makeup on to try to seem normal.

For that matter, in Dark Knight, when they're giving the 21 gun salute... Joker doesn't have the makeup.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Fivelives » Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:00 am

Ledger's joker wore white face paint and had normal colored skin. Nicholson's joker wore skin-tone makeup and had naturally white skin.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Lightbeard » Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:11 pm

Skye1013 wrote:
Arnock wrote:
Lightbeard wrote: We got to see Joker without his facepaint as a normal guy.



IIRC, the "face paint" was how his face actually looked, and he put the makeup on to try to seem normal.

For that matter, in Dark Knight, when they're giving the 21 gun salute... Joker doesn't have the makeup.


We saw Ledger Joker without makeup for like 2 seconds

The Nicholson Joker we got to see as a normal guy before his face turned white.

There was also a moment in the movie where he wore flesh colored facepaint to hide his white skin when he went on a date with that chick
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Fivelives » Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:18 pm

By "date with that chick" you mean "kidnapped Vicki Vale"?
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Invisusira » Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:28 pm

I re-watched the original Batman movies maybe a year ago, and was HORRIFIED at how bad they actually were. Like, talk about rose-colored glasses. Like, sure, entertaining to be sure. But everyone talks about Batman 1 and 2 like they're the Bible. Go re-watch them, without your retro-shades on. Apologies to Tim, but they're really nothing special. (Although they do at least lack Bat-nipples.)
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Lightbeard » Sat Feb 05, 2011 10:12 pm

Invisusira wrote:I re-watched the original Batman movies maybe a year ago, and was HORRIFIED at how bad they actually were. Like, talk about rose-colored glasses. Like, sure, entertaining to be sure. But everyone talks about Batman 1 and 2 like they're the Bible. Go re-watch them, without your retro-shades on. Apologies to Tim, but they're really nothing special. (Although they do at least lack Bat-nipples.)


Batman 2 (or whatever it was called) wasn't that great.

What didn't you like about the 1989 version? Because its honestly one of the best superhero movies ever done.
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Re: The Dark Knight Joker vs 1989 Batman Joker

Postby Skye1013 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:25 pm

Lightbeard wrote:Batman 2 (or whatever it was called) wasn't that great.

Just for informations sake.

1-1: Batman (Joker)
1-2: Batman Returns (Catwoman & Penguin)
1-3: Batman & Robin (Two-face & Riddler)
1-4: Batman Forever (Poison Ivy, Bane, & Mr. Freeze)

2-1: Batman Begins (Ra's Al Ghul, Scarecrow)
2-2: Dark Knight (Joker, Two-face, Scarecrow {briefly})

Lightbeard wrote:We saw Ledger Joker without makeup for like 2 seconds

The Nicholson Joker we got to see as a normal guy before his face turned white.

There was also a moment in the movie where he wore flesh colored facepaint to hide his white skin when he went on a date with that chick
Nobody had mentioned a timeframe for how long we had to have seen him without makeup... and in Batman (1989) they actually designed a backstory for Joker (as mentioned previously) whereas pretty much any other series he's been in, he hasn't had a singular true backstory. Even Joker apparently doesn't recall his true origins:

Joker in The Killing Joke wrote:"Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha!"

Though there is the commonality in most of them that he took a dunk in a vat of chemicals after running into Batman, which bleached his skin, colored his hair, and turned his lips red. Which ultimately led to his insanity. So that could be an argument against Ledger's Joker, but that again deals with the writing and not the portrayal.
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