Mark Hamill’s Joker will always be the best
Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as the Clown Prince of Crime has deservedly made history as a portrayal that will never be usurped. Equally revered was Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the character, making incels around the world sigh in relief as a film finally sympathizes with their plight as privileged white men. These two iterations of The Joker are fantastic and are the favorites of many for a number of reasons, but they pale in comparison to the excellence of Mark Hamill. To date, few can match the endless fanaticism Hamill brings to the role, imbuing the character with intelligence and chaos in a way that truly represents what he’s capable of. There is nothing like it.
This week, Batman: Arkham City celebrates its tenth anniversary, a game where the entire Joker arc surrounds his inevitable demise. The once unstoppable criminal is the victim of a disease over which he has no control, so he forces Batman to seek the cure that could bring him out of the abyss. Even in such a vulnerable position, Hamill’s haggard delivery makes him feel like a threat with so many tricks up his sleeve, and the villain’s own mortality doesn’t stop him from being a matchless foe. It operates in the shadows, its waning storytelling culminating in a completely unexpected death at the time, and even today it looks like a daring subversion of superhero tropes that remains unmatched. Suddenly the big bad is gone forever.
Even in Arkham Knight, his presence is undeniable as the specter that haunts Batman throughout the campaign, and many have spent the entire game wondering if he was even dead. Hamill instills this paranoia, forcing Batman to question his own actions as he has to face the truth that he failed to save someone, even though it’s the villain who despises him the most in the world. . By perishing, he won, making Bruce Wayne doubt his standing as a hero and how his justice only serves to endanger those he loves most. While Knight provides the character with a fitting conclusion, and Hamill has held the role in a selection of different games, movies, and TV shows, it’s Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy that gives him the most room to shine. Each line comes with playful perfection, paired with a cheerful exuberance that underscores just how wild and intelligent this man really is.
The first moments of Arkham Asylum teach us to never underestimate Mark Hamill’s Joker. He fell into the hands of captivity with intentions that immediately raise eyebrows. Batman tells Commissioner Gordon and the company that something is wrong, but they’re so obsessed with institutionalizing these larger-than-life villains that they push his worries away until it’s too late. The second the clown is safe from prying eyes, he murders a duo of guards and plunges deeper into the establishment, implementing a plan that will change Gotham City forever.
His motives remain unclear for several hours as he throws waves of senseless thugs at us. This is all a game for the Joker – in a way, he’s fully aware that he’s already emerged victorious, whether this plan is a success or not. He wants to play with people, turn them into toys he can handle and throw away like they’re nothing. Hamill sells every moment, whether he’s laughing at you from distant TV screens or confronting you in a final encounter with a boss who is honestly still a bit of teenage shit, but it’s all about of the journey and not of the destination. From that point of view, this performance of the character is second to none and, honestly, shouldn’t be pitted against her cinematic counterparts as she is trying something so fundamentally different.
The Dark Knight and Joker trilogy attempt to portray the character as a real person with flaws and emotions dictating their behavior. Joaquin Phoenix becomes The Joker because of the society he is continually oppressed by, with the economic and social systems of his world deciding that he does not belong to it. He tries to defend himself and ask for help, but is beaten repeatedly, so in the end he becomes the reverse of his own personality. He puts on makeup, laughs at the most tragic circumstances and inevitably provokes the revolt in Gotham City. He becomes a figure to be admired instead of mocked, and all it took was senseless murder and the courage to take a stand. If you admire him, you looked at him absolutely badly. It is a tragedy of untold proportions that shows just how much broken people are willing to go in the hope of being accepted.
Equally cryptic is Heath Ledger’s Joker, but his personality is once again built on the chaos that defines modern society. He sees the world as unfair, whether you think you are morally right or depraved. The only way to go is to sow chaos and disorder wherever he goes, burning monuments in the name of a world he doesn’t believe belongs to anyone. Without the actor’s tragic passing, I imagine the third film would have taken that philosophy even further, and fans have spent years ruminating on what might have been. In comparison, Hamill’s portrayal is eerie and larger than life, playing on similar themes of societal conflict but with a detachment that matches the universe the Arkham trilogy attempts to convey. He’s meant to be on top of it, a quality that not only shines through Hamill’s performance, but his outfit, manners, and larger mission extend to Gotham City. He’s Joker in his purest form, and to me he’s a version of the character that will forever be my dearest.
As I replay the Arkham Trilogy for the first time since its inception, I can’t wait to relive Hamill’s Joker, to discover complexities I was oblivious to as a teenager. Ledger, Phoenix, and Hamill will go down in history as beloved performers, especially in the way they brought Joker to life in new and exciting ways, but for me, only one can stand out from the crowd, and it’s definitely not winning an Academy Award.
Next: China’s Impact On The Gaming Industry Is Going To Be Huge
Squid Game has now been recreated in Roblox, Fortnite and also on PS1. Well, sort of.
About the Author