Comparing Heath Ledger’s Joker With Joaquin’s:
As soon as the news broke out that Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix are working on a Stand-alone Joker movie, people started to place their bets on whether Joaquin Phoenix would top the performance of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Some even argued that filmmakers should not experiment with the iconic villain anymore as, after Ledger, it was impossible to satisfy everyone.
So now that Joaquin’s adaptation of the character has landed the theatres, people have already taken sides. Some believe that Ledger’s version can’t be touched whereas some say that Ledger has finally been dethroned by Joaquin as the best Joker. We believe that comparing these two versions is unfair as they are completely different from each other and portray different aspects of the character.
The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) was a matured villain who was the arch-enemy of Batman, and we never got to see the events that led to his eventual snap, which ultimately turned him into the Clown Prince of Crime. Ledger’s Joker was already developed, and he was already 5 steps ahead of everyone and this aspect of the character was not at all portrayed in the latest movie.
Joaquin’s version is a display of a psychologically and physically troubled man, Arthur Fleck’s descent into madness. Arthur Fleck is a failed stand-up comedian struggling with mental illness, all the while trying to keep his professional and private life intact and when it all falls apart, he transforms into his true self, The Joker.
After looking at both the versions, it would be correct to point out the Ledger’s and Joaquin’s version are completely different and portray completely different versions of the character, for all we know, Joaquin’s portrayal can be considered as a prequel to Ledger’s Joker. In the Dark Knight, Joker’s origin is not explained, and we are given several different versions of his origin.
Yes, there are many similarities between both the versions – their dressing sense, they both painted their faces and they both have the same ideology, the difference is only that Ledger plays the Joker as soon as he appears on the screen whereas Joaquin Phoenix plays the character of Arthur Fleck, and he only truly becomes the Joker during the last 20 minutes. Before that, he is just a man suffering from mental illness trying to cope up with his misfortunes.
Joaquin’s Joker doesn’t want to see the world burn, he has an entirely different goal in mind – he just want people to recognize him and he just wants to validate his existence and search for an identity; whereas Ledger’s Joker is past this phase and he believes that this world cannot be redeemed anymore.
Arthur Fleck believed that he was sent to this world to make people laugh and bring joy to the world, but he soon finds out that the world has no place for him, and it breaks him. The better title for Todd Phillip’s Joker would have been “Arthur” as it would have made it clear that this is the story of a man tormented by society, and it would have put an end to all the unfair comparisons.
You never feel sorry for Ledger’s Joker, but that is not the case with Joaquin’s Joker, you can feel his pain and you might even feel sorry for being a part of a society that completely fails a man who is hurting and is in a lot of pain.
There have been several versions of the character and no single version can be regarded as the best and that is what makes the character of Joker so iconic. So, comparing different versions of the character would only lead to the formation of factions and it would divide the people who love the same thing.
All the versions of Joker to date – Mark Hamill, Jack Nicholson, Cesar Romero, Jared Leto, Zach Galifianakis; have done something different and we should be glad that we are able to enjoy our favorite super-villain in such depth.
In the end, there is no need to compare different versions of Joker as you can find something good in each version. So, stop comparing and just enjoy the show.