Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not with a whimper; but a bang

I saw The Dark Knight yesterday. I plan to see it again Monday morning on the IMAX screen at Pacific Science Center; I already have the tickets.

Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is everything that has been touted; more, I believe. Ledger steals the film every second he is on the screen and his Joker is a masterful application of smoke and mirrors beyond any I have ever seen.

It is so unsettling, because there is nothing solid to hang onto; just when I thought, "I have a handle on this performance; I understand it.", Ledger ramped it up another notch. His Joker is a dangerous man not because he would just as soon kill you as look at you, which is so; not because he doesn't give a damn about anything, which is also true, but because he possesses a genius for manipulation and feels no compulsion against its use.

Listen to him explain the scars on his face, given at knife point, as he licks his lips and tastes the lie with his tongue, each time twisting the story to inflict the maximum horror upon his audience of one. Watch his eyes light up as he probes for an opponent's weakness or as he feeds someone their own regurgitated fear and anger.

When I was growing up, my teachers would have said this fellow didn't play well with others; today, some well-meaning psychologist would knowingly offer an Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis.

Those are just more attempts to attach handles. Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler, knows the truth. "Some men," Alfred says, "just want to see the world burn."

I learned to love comic books when I read what my son, who is now thirty, wanted to read, growing up. Batman has always been my favorite super-hero, perhaps because he had no special powers.

I went to see The Dark Knight because of that affinity and I enjoyed the film no end. But I will see it again and again, will buy the DVD, when it is available, because of Heath Ledger's Joker.

It is the performance of a lifetime.