August 2, 2006

The Dark Knight has a Funny Villain

Two new pieces of the Bat-puzzle have been filled in. We all know how good Batman Begins was, and it was just a matter of time before we would get a sequel. The only thing that was, and is, waiting to be discovered are the pieces. Christopher Nolan is coming back, Christian Bale is coming back, and hopefully other memebers of the cast will come back, guys like Michael Caine and Gary Oldman. This week unveiled two more pieces.

First, Warner Brothers has announced the title of the film, and I love the choice. The second film will be called The Dark Knight. At least, that will be the tentative title. I would not be surprised to see the word "Batman" tossed in their as a leader, so their will be no confusion as to who this movie is about. As it stands, The Dark Knight is a great title, and seems to be fitting with the tone and look of the new timeline.

The other new piece unveiled is the casting of the primary villain. It was teased at the end of Batman Begins who was next, with the playing card reveal. The villain is set to be the clown prince of crime, the Joker. Many names were tossed around for the role, and someone I considered to be a dark horse pulled away and has landed the coveted role. That someone is none other than Heath Ledger. Let the Broke-Bat Mountain jokes begin, or rather lets not.

Since the announcement, I have visited a few places that had similar announcements up, and it seemed that no sooner did someone see the name, the jokes started. I have to ask why? Why must the jokes start up? Brokeback Mountain was an excellent film, and Heath Ledger gave a fine, nuanced performance to emotionally anchor the movie. I feel bad for Heath, as this may follow him the rest of his career. Hopefully it won't, but it is what it is. The jokes are completely unnecessary.

Now, do I like the casting of Ledger? I have not completely made up my mind yet, but I am leaning towards yes. He has a look that could be well adapted to fit the role, but I have not yet seen him in anything that demonstrated a goofy or maniacal side to him. I have faith in Christopher Nolan, so I am sure he sees something in him that will be brought out in the role. Heath has had a mixed bag of roles so far. I first saw him in the mediocre teen comedy Ten Things I Hate About You, after which I saw A Knight's Tale which was kind of fun. He was pretty good as Mel Gibson's son in The Patriot, but was simply awful in The Order, which was pretty bad to begin with. So far, nothing special. Now, along comes The Lords of Dogtown, this was a good movie, and I thought Ledger's supporting role was excellent and possibly his best performance to date. That was followed up with a mediocre role in the style over substance exercise The Brothers Grimm. Finally, that brings us to Brokeback Mountain, easily his best performance yet. Does any of this make him a good choice for the Joker? Probably not, but he does show a willingness to take on a variety of roles, and I think that he can pull it off, especially with Nolan at the helm.

Who would I have liked to have seen get the spot? The name floating around that I had supported was Paul Bettany. He is tall, lanky, and has a bit of an odd look to him. He has been becoming one of my favorite character actors. Following his performances in Wimbledon, Firewall, Master and Commander, and The DaVinci Code, I am ready to see him take on something like the Joker. Other names that had been talked about include Crispin Glover, who I think would be better as the Riddler, Robin Williams, Guy Pearce and Adrien Brody. I am not sure if those were just rumors, but I suppose some of them are.

In the end, these are two positive announcements about the forward motion on this one. So long as the motion is kept moving in the right direction, I suspect we will see this in theaters in June of 2008. I would love to have it sooner, but next summer is too crowded, and too soon for this to get the attention it deserves. Still, I can't wait!


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