1989 saw the release of a little movie directed by Tim Burton called Batman. It swept the entire nation and with that, two iconic characters – The Caped Crusader and his ultimate foe The Joker were introduced while bringing The Caped Crusader and his ultimate foe, The Joker, to the big screen for a new generation of fans to adore.
The actors who played the characters were Michael Keaton landed the titular role and Jack Nicholson got on board to embody the character who would go on to become one of the most popular and psychotic villain in movie history.
This piece as the title suggests will focus on Nicholson and his portrayal of The Joker. Not only did he absolutely nail the role, but his quirky take of character was a show stealer, especially, in scenes that are memorable to us now (but more on that later).
He began as a mobster by the name of Jack Napier in Gotham, a city full of crimes.His swift and seeminglyeffortless transformation into the Clown Prince of Crime right before our eyes was a cinematic feat that not many actors are capable of achieving. He wasn’t just a kooky criminal.He was perhaps the funniest cinematic version of The Joker we’ve seen so far even with so many iterations and takes of the character. So much was his pull that we almost had to remind ourselves we are on Batman’s side. Constant reminder of our allegiance was on order as we hysterically laughed at his perfectly-timed puns. His one-liners were killers. Some credit must go to the director Tim Burton who is the master when it comes to wacky and outlandish.
With that out of the way, let’s delve into 5 Factors that Elevated Jack Nicholson’sPortrayal of The Joker to an Icon
1. The First Movie Joker
This was the first cinematic adaptation of The Joker since the early ‘60s live-action version of Cesar Romero. Romero’s Joker was aired on the television and since then till Nicholson came to the fore; the Joker’s character was on a hiatus for a good 21 years. Romero career ended with and as The Joker in 1968. That was the year when Batman: The TV Series got wrapped up.
So, Nicholson is known for being the very first “Movie Joker.” He has two big contributions in this regard. Firstly, he introduced the Joker as a maniacal loco man to mainstream audiences and fans from new generation. Secondly, not only did herevive the character, he also put a much darker spin on him. This was in fact more faithful to the comic book version. Thus, he was the Joker comic books fans have been waiting o see onscreen.
Batman kick-started a new era of hype and demand for the prolific comic book characters and we know where we are today. Needless to say, itraked in the dollars at the box office with over $400-million.
2. Origin as a Mobster
As mentioned earlier, The Joker began in the movie as a mob guy Jack Napier. He is characterized asa cranky, grumpy and a mean-spirited man. For some odd reason, he enjoys flipping a deck of cards around his office. Actually, those came in quite handy though as they did stopped a bullet from entering his heart because they happened to be in his chest pocket.
A typical mob guy, Napier could be best described as vain, humourless criminal with his fancy, blingy suits and a trophy girlfriend. As a kid, he resorted to a life of violence and crime on Gotham’s street and alluded to murdering his own parents.
And since we are on the topic of parents, he has a connection to Bruce Wayne’s parents. In his early days as a criminal, he and his partner in crime mugged Bruce Wayne’s parents at gunpoint. They shot the Waynes in cold blood.
He gazes into Bruce and asks, “Tell me, kid, have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?” As Napier flees from the scene he tells a devastated Bruce that he would see him around. Did he realize then that he would meet up with Bruce Wayne years in the future as Batman and The Joker??
Enough of side stories, let’s get back to the Joker’s transformation. The Joker’s boss Grissom ordered a corrupt policeman to shoot and kill him at Axis chemicals for stealing his girlfriend. Due to Batman and Commissioner Gordon’s timely intervention Napier’s sure shot death got prevented.Unfortunately, he still ended up falling into a vat of acid.
He escapes to Gotham Bay with the help of drainage pipes and was changed. His hair is now green, his skin white and his lips were ruby red. His attempts to fix his face by plastic surgery results in that iconic permanent smile instead.
And he became The Joker