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The Joker – Who did it best?

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jack nicholson joker image
Warner Bros.

With the drop of the new Justice League: The Snyder Cut trailer, there’s been some conversation around Jared Leto being The Joker again. Especially after the Oscar-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix in the 2019 film Joker. With this in mind, we got thinking about The Joker and all his TV, video game and film appearances since his debut in the DC comic book, Batman, in 1940. Although the illustrations and storylines were first created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson. All 20 of the actors and voice actors that have taken on the role have put their own fantastic and entertaining spin on the menacing supervillain. But, who did it best? Below is a list of our top 10.

After all, “we live in a society” where The Joker is clearly the best villain in the DC Universe… “Isn’t that right, Batman?”

10. John DiMaggio

Batman: Under the Red Hood 2010 / Batman: Death in the Family 2020

When it comes to The Joker, you can’t just look at the live-action performances. Some of the best Jokers come from cartoons and video games. Where the character is propelled by amazing voice actors, such as John Dimaggio.

His serious and intimidating take on The Joker really stands out. It sends shivers down most viewers’ spines, especially when he does the trademark Joker laugh. Obviously, Dimaggio can’t take all the credit. The animators and screenwriters in both films complemented his take on The Joker. Despite the styles being different in each film.

Bonus Fact: DiMaggio also did a small voice role as The Joker in ‘Lego DC Comics Superheroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom’ in 2015. As well as voicing Lex Luther. Throughout his illustrious voice acting career, DiMaggio has voiced several DC and Marvel characters.

9. Zach Galifianakis

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)/ Batman Is Just Not That Into You (2017)

Normally, The Joker is associated with a darker creeper voice and presence. But, in ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, Zach Galifianakis gives us a completely different feel with his vocal performance. He is more jovial, funny and everyday-sounding. Rather than the dark menacing sound we have come to expect from the character. Obviously, this is to keep in tune with the Lego brand and audience. But funnily enough, it works for the Lego character, making him a definite contender for the top 10.

Bonus Fact: A lot of the lines between Batman (Will Arnett) and The Joker (Galifianakis) for the Lego Batman movies were improvised and they pretty much recorded on the spot.

8. Anthony Ingruber

Batman: The Telltale Series 2016 / Batman: The Enemy Within 2017

Again, we do need to shout out to the animators and storyboard writers at Telltale Games for this Joker. The incredible scenes, backstory and characteristics add to Anthony Ingruber’s interpretation of the character. In games like this, where the storylines push the narrative forward make you want to play it to until 3am. Even on a school night (talking from experience). You really have to get the voice acting right, otherwise, the story could just fall flat. Anthony Ingruber does just this in both games.

He manages to capture all the emotions in the animation and create a new creepy sound for this version of the Joker. Along with one of the best Joker cackles. Ingruber’s version of The Joker is so easy to detect throughout the game. Which is good as there are scenes when all you see of The Joker is his fingers through the bat signal.

Bonus Fact: As an accomplished screen and voice actor, Ingruber has also had another DC role in his career as the voice of Johnny Quick (AKA The Flash) in the 2018 Lego DC Super-Villains game.

7. Cameron Monaghan

Gotham (2015- 2019)

He may only be a baby Joker when we first meet him in Gotham, but throughout the series, his character grew and, boy, was he good! Just when we thought Gotham had killed off who we thought The Joker was going to be. He rises from the dead and brings his twin brother too (also Monaghan), who ends up being smarter and even more twisted. The many twists and turns in his storyline were incredibly binge-worthy. Yet, it was Monghan’s facial expressions, mannerisms and expert acting skills that really made this character one of the best villains in the Gotham series.

Bonus Fact: Whilst playing the part of The Joker in Gotham, Monaghan was only in his early twenties (22 – 26), making him the youngest Joker in the pack.

8. Cesar Romero

Batman: The Movie (1966) / Batman (TV Series 1966 – 1968)

In the first-ever Batman series and spin-off movie, we got our first-ever onscreen version of the Joker, Cesar Romero. The producers of the 1966 series loved Romero’s intimidating yet jovial portrayal of the character. So much so, in fact, that The Joker, alongside The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), were the most frequent villains on the series.

Even though Romero’s portrayal of the character was more jovial and mischievous than menacing (mainly because it was aimed at families and on daytime TV). Some of his attributes are still used in interpretations to this day. Including how he laughed and some of his movements as he pranced around the set.

Bonus Fact: Romero, also known as ‘The Latin Lover’, loved his trademark moustache so much that he point blank refused to shave it off for the part and instead famously just painted over it.

5. Jared Leto

Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League: The Snyder Cut (2021)

So, let’s face it, Leto’s take on The Joker is controversial and divides opinions. With a lot of anguish aimed at the ‘damaged’ tattoo on his head (which we agree was a bad decision). But the costume department and some of the scripting choices put to one side. Leto is actually a really great actor and played the part well, bringing across The Joker’s creepy and unpredictable behaviour.

Also, his depiction of the character matches up well with Margot Robbie’s Harlequin and works well for the Suicide Squad.
Although there is some disagreement around Leto appearing in the ‘Justice League: The Snyder Cut’. It does make sense in the current DC world. The characters from both the ‘Justice League’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ have intertwined since they started this set of movies. Even though it looks like Leto’s part might be short. With writing and directing skills from Zack Snyder, his take on The Joker may be given the freedom it needs to flourish a little more this time around.

Bonus Fact: When preparing for the role, before he met Harlequin (Robbie), Leto wrote her a love letter as The Joker along with a present. The present was a live rat! The cast apparently had shared custody of the rat until the end of filming, when it was gifted to ‘Pacific Rim’ director Guillermo del Toro, and it lived happily in his family home.

4. Joaquin Phoenix

Joker (2019)

The newest member of The Joker club. Joaquin Phoenix takes The Joker’s sinister undertones to new levels, drawing the character closer to the creepy clown realm than we have ever seen before.

After being seen as a joke, and not taken seriously, this Joker wanted to turn the city upside down. Making it the world that made this Joker who he is, not a chemical accident. This is portrayed superbly by Phoenix, revealing new sides of The Joker. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of this interpretation in the future.

Bonus Fact: As this character is based more on the mental stability of The Joker, when preparing for the role, Phoenix-based his laugh on videos he’d seen of people suffering from Pathological Laughter.

3. Jack Nicholson

Batman (1989)

In the late 80s and early 90s, we had a string of fantastic Batman films directed by Tim Burton. Not only were these films full of action and intrigue, with a drizzle of slapstick, they also brought the darker, fully realised DC characters to our screens and the forefront. And the one that stood out the most was Jack Nicholson’s take on The Joker.

As the Gangster turned Joker, Nicholson was the first to give the villain a little more of a murderous edge, tapping into the evilness of baddie. Nicholson was reported as being a hands-on actor, having a say on his makeup, as well as some of Burton’s scripting. Together Nicholson and Burton made this character one of the most honoured and referenced jokers of all time.

Bonus Fact: There were quite a few of famous people that were considered for this role, including Robin Williams and David Bowie, but Nicholson’s menacing ideas for the character won out.

2. Heath Ledger

The Dark Knight (2008)

One of the most memorable and iconic versions of The Joker comes from Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’.

It’s strange to think that back in 2007 when the cast for the film was released, the director Christopher Nolan was criticised for the casting. Fans had a few other names in mind of the role. At the time Ledger was better known for romantic comedies such as ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘A Knights Tale’. Which doesn’t really fit with the dark and brooding feel of the Batman franchise. But Heath Ledger proved all of the nay-sayers wrong.

Ledger stole the spotlight and out-acted everyone in the movie, including the titular Batman, played by Christian Bale. He went on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe for ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role’. Unfortunately, the release of the film, the masses of critical acclaim and the awards came after Ledger’s heartbreaking and untimely death.

Extra Fact – Ledger put so much thought into his character right down to the makeup, insisting that he wanted to do it himself to make it look more realistic.

Disclaimer – We know putting Ledger in the second spot might be controversial, and yes, Ledger, is arguably the best live-action Joker (closely followed by Nicholson), but there is someone else that just clinches the top spot, whose voice embodies The Joker we all know and love…

1. Mark Hamill

10 video games/ 5 animated series/ 5 feature-length films / 3 short films (1992 – present)

As you can clearly see, Mark Hamill already wins on credits alone. So much so that listing all his Joker appearances would have taken up half of this article. But, is why we think he is the best Joker based on the number of appearances? Oh no, there are lots of reasons why we believe he earns the top spot! For example, like a lot of people in DC forums all over the internet, whenever we read comics now or think of the Joker, it’s his voice we hear.

Also, across the 3 decades, and throughout the TV, movies, cartoons and many video games, The Joker’s appearance and the world around him changes. Yet Hamill has somehow managed to expertly evolve his voice alongside the character and perfectly change it up slightly to fit the aesthetic in the specific medium. All while still making it familiar and quintessentially The Joker we hear in our own heads.

Extra Fact – Mark Hamill wasn’t the first choice to voice The Joker in the original Batman animated series. In 1992, Tim Curry recorded around four episodes; but, he had to step down. There are two rumoured reasons for this decision. The first is that Curry developed bronchitis, and the second is that the producers simply just didn’t like his take on The Joker.

So, there we have it, our top 10 favourite Jokers of all time, I hope you enjoyed reading our list. If you think there should have been another Joker up there, or you would have changed the order, let us know below.

But I think the above just proves that the ever-evolving Joker is the best DC villain of all time. If you disagree just ask yourself – ‘Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?’


Thank you for reading our article on The Joker, who did it best. Do you agree with our list? What would your order be? Let us know in the comments below.


See the teaser trailer for Robert Pattinson’s The Batman HERE.

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No Time To Die – Review

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James Bond No Time To Die image
Metro Goldwyn Mayer

No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Delays

Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.

A step up?

This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.

That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.

Screen time

The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.

Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.

There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.

Score

Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.

Duration

The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.

Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.

It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.

Wrapping up

I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.

Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.

It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10


Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.

Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.

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