If Will Smith’s I Am Legend is playing on an IMAX screen near you, check it out. It’s worth the ticket price just to see the IMAX-only Dark Knight prologue starring Heath Ledger as The Joker.
Proceed with caution, because I’m going to talk about some of its contents in detail.
It’s basically the most bad-ass bank heist I’ve ever seen on film, with a Batman twist.
It begins with a gorgeous IMAX shot of Gotham City that settles on a huge building. One of the windows explodes outward. Two guys in clown masks fire a zip-line at a building on the other side of the street and zoom down to the roof.
On the street below, a guy with green hair and his back to the camera stands on a corner with a big blue duffel bag over his shoulder and a clown mask in his hand. By the time an SUV bearing more clown-masked bad guys picks him up, the mysterious stranger has put on his mask. Everybody else is talking trash. But this guy doesn’t say a word.
The bank robbery happens fast, with the robbers picking each other off one by one based on promises made by their mysterious boss.
As it turns out, this bank is full of mob money. And the manager, played by William Fichtner, comes out of his office with his shotgun blazing.
One of the three remaining clowns goes down fast.
The quiet clown calmly, confidently evades the gunfire by moving behind a large counter. Soon both remaining clowns are behind it. The other clown asks the quiet clown if the bank manager is out of ammo by now; the quiet clown nods his head so the other clown immediately stands up, only to be shot at by the bank manager.
Having used his partner as bait (and obviously hoping the partner would have gotten shot in the process), the quiet clown ducks around and fills the bank manager full of bullets.
Surrounded by satchels filled with cash, the other clown asks the quiet clown if the boss asked him to take him out.
And when he cocks his head to the side, quiet clown mimics the movement. It’s a very creepy, dangerous little moment.
And the quiet clown says, “No, I’m going to kill the bus driver.”
“The bus driver?”
A school bus slams through the bank, creaming the other clown.
“School’s out! Time to go!” The bus driver comes out of the back of the bus, marvels at the amount of cash, and starts helping the quiet clown load up the bus with the cash.
“What happened to the other guys?”
Quiet clown shoots the bus driver.
Barely alive, the bank manager starts screaming at the quiet clown about how the criminals in this town used to believe in honor and respect. Doesn’t this guy believe in anything?
And then it happens.
The quiet clown comes over, leans down and pulls off his mask … revealing a full-screen, IMAX-sized view of The Joker’s terrifying visage.
“I believe that what doesn’t kill you simply makes you … stranger!”
He shoves a grenade into the bank manager’s mouth. The bank manager starts weeping. The Joker closes the doors on the back of the bus. But there’s a purple wire coming off the back of one of the doors. As The Joker begins to drive the bus out of the bank, the wire goes taut … on the pin of the grenade in the bank manager’s mouth.
But when the pin pulls, nothing comes out of the grenade but smoke.
The bus lumbers out of the bank and disappears into a long line of buses heading down the street as the police arrive too late.
So why didn’t The Joker blow up the bank manager?
Because if he had, there’d have been no one left alive to get the joke.
It conforms to each of the trademark Joker elements:
1. He always kills all of his henchmen.
2. He’s clever.
3. He’s confident.
4. He’s efficient.
Writer/director Christopher Nolan definitely gets The Joker.
And as for Heath Ledger?
Go see it!