Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dear Charlie:

So, we saw The Dark Knight.

Everyone and their grandma will tell you it's excellent, and they'd be right. So, instead of an unnecessary (and probably gushy) review, I'd much rather talk about the Joker. No, not about Heath Ledger, though his portrayal is particularly wicked.

The Joker. The ultimate villain.

See, I think I've finally determined what makes the Joker so impossible to beat (and why he's my beef with Tim Burton's Batman, and that only because they killed him). It's not that he's chaotic. It's not that he's heartless. It's not that he's not in it for profit.

It's that he's right.

Don't get me wrong. His strength does lie in chaos. The Joker in this flick carefully outlines why making a plan is fruitless. It's fruitless because it limits. If things don't go according to plan, they only have one way to go -- wrong. And therein lies his righteousness.

Because we humans are creatures of The Plan. When one little thing in The Plan goes wrong, we fall apart. Very few of us are capable of adjusting to that kind of fall-out-of-the-cracks, land-in-your-lap-and-wiggle chaos.

And when we find ourselves in chaos, we tend to turn on each other. In that, we're worse than animals.

And why?

Because we can reason. Because we can think ahead. Because...well, because we can see the worst case scenario, and very few of us can live with it.

The Joker, now...he's different. It's not that he can't see that worst case scenario. It's that he...can live with it. He has imagined the worst possible consequence of his actions, and he finds that risk acceptable. He wouldn't even hold it against whoever carried it out. That's just the way it goes, in his mind.

And because he has decided that he can accept the consequences of his actions, he is free to do as he wishes. He's free to upset The Plan.

He doesn't have to plan, see? He knows that we will. All he has to do is mess The Plan up. Stir the pot. Make us choose between our pseudo-civilized conscience and our baser instinct to save our own all-too-human asses.

That is why he's so chilling. That is why he's so effective as Batman's opposite. That is why they have to be so careful who they cast. And that is why I'm finally touched in some personal way by Heath Ledger's death.

Because no one else will nail that chaotic, beautifully logical freedom so well. I see that complete acceptance in his eyes, in his every move. Death doesn't scare him. Being maimed doesn't scare him. Being caught doesn't scare him. Having to improvise doesn't scare him. Thus, he always appears to be in complete control, contrary to the seeming randomness of his actions.

That control, that calmness in the face of chaos just lives in Ledger's eyes. Every moment he's on-screen.

Plus, he has a wicked-cool laugh. And that magic trick?

To die for. Ba-dum chink!

Heh. Sorry. Couldn't resist. You'll get it if you've seen it. Best. Magic Trick. EVER.

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