CNN, about the new “The Dark Knight” Batman movie:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Movies/07/02/film.ledger.oscarbuzz.ap/index.html

Many of you know I have been a fan of Batman for some time.  I have attempted to understand the character, as well as the villains that have been featured, especially during the Jason Todd/Tim Drake-as-Robin years.  The first Batman movie came out (Tim Burton) and I thought it captured the darkness of the genre very well.  That said, there was still a certain comic-book character to the film; as if Burton was attempting to appeal to the grown-up audience by using cartoony imagery and theatrics.  Indeed, he was, but he was likely creating the movie that looked best in his head to him.  He followed it up with the next in the franchise, “Batman Returns,” with the same lead, and a new and two even more over-the-top villians.  The third film, now with Joel Schumacher in the big chair, replaced the man in the suit with a more build-appropriate star, but with none of the character of the first.  That, and two villains that were, by far, the worst of the lot (yet), and a plot that could have been lifted straight from the television series.  Finally, Schumacher rounded out the debacle with the ringingly horrible “Batman and Robin.”  As for me, I have yet to be able to stomach this whole film.  I’ve endured many a bad movie.  I can’t this one.  And I’m a fan.

Finally, I felt I might be rescued with Christopher Nolan’s reset of the milieu in “Batman Begins.”  It had the same potential star-power of a cast; it didn’t take long to realize, during the watching of the movie, that he was going to take full advantage of that acting.  Plus, two things were evident – Batman was Batman again, and this film was for grown-ups.  It’s too dark, too real, and the villian too esoteric for children.  Not even seeing the Batsuit til nearly halfway through the movie says something about the director’s ability to tell a story, rather than make a moving comic book for the kiddies, nearly all of whom don’t give a whit about the Golden Age heroes.

Finally, to the topic of this post, the upcoming “Dark Knight” movie.  I’ve been a fan of Heath Ledger since “Ten Things I Hate About You.”  Actually, I was a fan of the show “Roar,” but it took me seeing “A Knight’s Tale” to remember it was him in the lead.  I thought “The Order” was kind of crap, but I’m a sucker for religious intrigue.  And I haven’t seen “Brokeback Mountain” yet – only because I’m lazy.  When they announced it was he who would play the Clown Prince of Crime, I was impressed – that they would hire someone who hadn’t really had the call to play a character of this magnitude, and that we would (if all went well) really get to see what Ledger was made of.  The Joker is insanity incarnate; if he were just evil, it would be easy – turn the switch, pull the lever, one state execution done and done.  But he has been diagnosed, over and over, as “criminally insane,” and thus will ever end up under observation at Arkham Asylum.  And, as true in real life as in fiction, the crazy is accompanied by genius – in the comics, a knowledge of chemistry that would make any scientist green with envy (yeah, had to do it…).  In the film, I expect to see a criminal mastermind that can bend any situation to his whim.  I also expect to come away with some fucked-up images in my head – if I don’t, then Ledger didn’t play the Joker right.  Which also leads me to believe that there was a reason that he had sleeping issues, and was taking way too many pharmaceuticals – and I don’t believe that working with the ever-lighthearted Terry Gilliam, as nuts as he is, could prompt such mental anguish.  Where one would have to go to play the Joker in his full capacity for disorder – that’s a scary place.

Will they give an Oscar to a comic book villain?  I don’t think they would, if it were just that.  Will they give it to a dead actor?  It’s been done before.  Will they give it to Heath Ledger?  They could have for Brokeback.  I’ll be interested to see – enough bad guys have gotten the award (my faves are F. Murray Abraham for “Amadeus,”  Anthony Hopkins for “Silence,” Forest Whitaker for “Last King.”  And Peter Finch won for “Network” after he died.  The question remains; is (was) Heath Ledger good enough in this role to do it?  Gary Oldman (big huge fan of him) thinks so.  Kevin Smith (comic fan and filmmaker) thinks so.  Let’s see if the Academy thinks so.