Todd Phillips’ long-awaited movie Joker is a Standalone version. Joaquin Phoenix portrays the role of Joker. Phoenix’ Joker has compelled the fans to compare him with Heath Ledger’s Joker from the Dark Knight Rises. Although Joaquin Phoenix did deliver a chilling performance, Joker has performed well at the Box office and could dethrone Heath Ledger’s Joker. Since the announcement of the movie Joker, fans have compared Phoenix and Ledger’s version of Joker. The audience wants to know if the new Joker could shock and scare audiences as the failed-comedian-turned-crazed-killer Arthur Fleck as much as Ledger’s version. The debate over Phoenix and Ledger as the Joker began months ago. But with the world finally able to see Phoenix wear clown makeup and a tattered suit. Hence, the fight is no longer theoretical.
The Origin of Joker
To understand the Joker, we have to follow the origin of the character. This is precisely where Ledger and Phoenix’s portrayals differ the most. In The Dark Knight, the Joker has no name or background. Joker is an enigma, a person who has suffered at the heart of Gotham. He portrays a character who is deeply disturbed within himself. Each time he asks, “You wanna know how I got these scars?” he tells a different story. In a lot of ways, his Joker isn’t meant to be human. Instead, he’s a symbol, a status of the criminal mastermind that Ledger deliberately adopts.
On the other hand, we know almost everything about Phoenix’s Joker. Phillips details Arthur Fleck’s road to complete madness. The audience can see how delusional Arthur is as a character. After watching the movie, you realize, Arthur Fleck is a lonely man who is poor and wants to get simple things out of life. However, he takes a wrong turn and ends up becoming a criminal mastermind. He does have sympathetic moments such as the deep affection for his mother (though he does end up killing her). Arthur has connections to friends and family and wants to find adoration and acceptance from others as a stand-up comedian.
Heath Vs Joaquin’s Performance
Between Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix, the role of the Joker has become a kind of like Play. Everyone wants to throw on Mr. J’s makeup and lose themselves in Gotham. For their parts, Ledger and Phoenix’s both tried to transform themselves to take on challenging roles.
Ledger famously locked himself in a hotel room for a month, and it’s often claimed that the psychological toll of the role contributed to his untimely death. Similarly, Phoenix has never turned away physically- and mentally-demanding performances. Joaquin lost 50 pounds for the position, and to be in-character while filming, he would occasionally leave the set.
Ledger won an Oscar for his performance in the Dark Knight. As a raspy, grotesque madman with a Glasgow smile, stringy green hair, and half-melted clown makeup, his Joker is equal parts Alex DeLarge and Danny Devito’s Penguin, a haunting mix of macabre menace and sheer gross-out eeriness. His voice, Daffy Duck-like rasp, is a perfect match for his deliberately affected look (honeycomb-patterned purple dress shirts, his purple three-piece suit).
Contrast that with Phoenix’s Joker, who takes on a much more Chaplin-esque physicality as Fleck, alluding to his history as an actual working clown. He expresses himself through a blindly expressive dance at his most happy moments. Joker speaks with a wounded, fragile little songbird from whom his violent.
Who Is Better?
Phoenix is watchable and empathetic during the best moments of Joker. But Heath Ledger was hands down the best Joker we have seen till today. It’s an unforgettable performance as Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker fits the character well. Fleck is less a Clown Prince of Crime than he is an unwitting catalyst for class revolution. Phoenix’s Joker is not as utterly transformative as Ledger’s.