Batman in the (nut)house

Given all the hoohaa going round the Internet at the moment over Batman: Arkham Asylum, I figured I should at least try the demo.

Was I blown away. First of all, Rocksteady’s approach to making a demo really hit the nail on the head. Whereas The Force Unleashed‘s demo made the game out to be too fiddly to bother with, and Resident Evil 5‘s demo dropped me in the middle of a firefight with no explanation of the controls, Arkham Asylum starts at the beginning of the game with a light tutorial that teaches you the basics of combat, stealth, and the totally awesome “Detective Mode”.

I’m not a huge comic reader, but the game really captures the “Dark Knight” mode of Batman that I like. It’s about being a high-tech, enigmatic, tenebrous badass. He’s Sam Fisher without the handholding of the US government.

The combat is fluid and dynamic, the “Detective mode” adds an interesting dimension to the game, and the stealth system beats the pants off anything I’ve played before. This is definitely high on my must-play list.

Why no perspective?

According to Wired, there is a group of Heath Ledger fans demanding a moratorium on big-screen portrayals of everybody’s favourite clown. According to the article:

“We truly believe Ledger’s performance as Joker is the best an actor could ever do,” the site’s team leader, Fer Barbella, told Wired.com in an e-mail interview.

“Any other performance will be below expectations for sure, so we want to forever keep Ledger’s Joker as the one,” added Barbella, who launched The Ultimate Joker site last week with his colleague Nico Pimentel.

Now, I admit I had a good time with The Dark Knight, but I honestly believe that if Ledger gets an Oscar for his performance, it’ll mostly be a sympathy vote. That Joker was edgy, and anarchic, and vicious, and very very disturbing. But worthy of an Academy award? Hardly.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, can we look objectively at the demands of these obsessed fans? They are requiring that one of the staple villains of the Batman canon be taken off the big screen. Never mind that Ledger needed a script and a director to perform off. Never mind that the Joker can (and has been) written and performed a whole bunch of different ways, and there will be more to come.

Sure, the current fad in comic book movies is for Dark and Gritty(tm), and this calls for an inhumanly intense and bipolar Joker, doesn’t mean the next time round it will be the same. Or that it won’t be better. Ledger doesn’t have a monopoly on that character, and other actors shouldn’t be denied a chance to try it out.

Maybe I’m just getting worked up over nothing, but Ledger was nothing special, and just because he took too many pills, doesn’t mean we should claim him to be some sort of shining light in Hollywood.

Dark Knight: Why so excited?

I finally got round to watching The Dark Knight and had a moderately good time. I think that it was a pretty good package overall: a fun time, good continuity with Batman Begins, good acting, and a script with good themes and dialogue.

To address the question that everybody apparently has to answer, yes Heath Ledger was good as the Joker. But I do believe he could have done the role without putting himself into a headspace that would require antidepressants and sleeping pills. And it certainly wasn’t worthy of an Oscar. My two cents, anyway. I’m probably a heretic now.

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