Very few of us can forget Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Despite the 70-year history of the character, Ledger came to define the absolute best that could be done, making his death soon after that much more tragic for the world of cinema.
In the wake of The Dark Knight, the legacy he left for the iconic villain was hard to deny: Every actor depicting the Joker will always be measured up against him. It should come as no surprise, then, that people were already skeptical of Jared Leto’s version following the first image released to the public by Suicide Squad director David Ayer last year.
When the image first went public, the internet went wild in mocking it with as many memes as it could muster. Leto is covered with Joker-themed tattoos across his body, looking more like a green-haired punk rocker than Batman’s greatest enemy. That being so, the real focus should be on trying to deduce what his performance will bring. Will it delve even deeper into the unsettlingly chaotic path Heath Ledger took the villain down? Or will it be like the more comedic Mark Hamill-voiced version from the Batman animated series?
Whichever direction both Ayer and Leto decide to take the role, there’s one thing they should remember: Trying to recreate Ledger’s Joker is folly, and the only way to follow it up is to make it entirely new. By “entirely new,” we don’t necessarily mean they have to reinvent the wheel. More to the point, filmmakers can’t be operating with the shadow of The Dark Knight‘s Joker hovering over them. A harkening back to the slightly more humorous but still equally as iconic animated series version may suit Suicide Squad well, given that we’ve never quite seen that in a live-action scenario.
This is represented well in the version we get from Hamill. His voice has become the quintessential version used throughout entertainment, even making an appearance in the Arkham series of Batman video games. It tends to reflect the more ridiculous nature of the villain while still managing to menace both our hero and the city he protects.
For all we know, Leto already has a completely different direction mapped out for the character. What was so unsettling about the first released photo was its complete lack of subtly, which is really saying something when you consider who he’s playing.
The tattoos (if they indeed are here to stay) are a bit too on the nose for a villain who really doesn’t need much help being sinister and psychotic. Regardless, we can think of no better actor for the role, given the way Leto showed his acting chops in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club. Much will be left up to the people in charge of the creative direction (read: David Ayer and company).
Despite initial doubts over the first photo, we’re confident Leto can bring out more of Mark Hamill’s Joker in a brand new medium. What would be even more impressive would be a blending of that and Ledger’s, making for a healthy middle ground that Leto’s proven more than capable of handling based on his past work. [Update, 6/9/16: The trailers that have been released so far appear promising!]
We highly recommend stashing all hesitance until we see the final product. The role currently resides in dependable hands, and we’d be surprised if perfecting the character wasn’t the first priority from the second the first draft of the script was written.
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