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Should The Joker Be Entirely Erased From The Dark Knight Rises Out Of Respect To Heath Ledger?

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Heath Ledger Joker not mentioned in The Dark Knight Rises Christopher Nolan quoteThough this is all speculation, it probably counts as a spoiler for The Dark Knight Risesso if you want your movie experience to be completely unsullied, stop reading now! The rest of you, let's gather round and trade theories on what's personally my biggest question about the final Batman film: Will there be any sort of nod to the Joker?

Despite Heath Ledger‘s shocking, untimely death in 2008, fan consensus of the past few years seems to be that Christopher Nolan had somehow figured out a way to include Heath's incredible performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight Rises. Maybe Nolan already knew what the story was going to be for TDKR and shot a bunch of extra footage while making The Dark Knight! Or, as more than one site has contemplated, Nolan used CGI magic to edit cutting-room floor footage and create even just the barest of nods to the iconic character.

An IMDb user has updated TDKR‘s trivia page with the following claim: “Out of respect for Heath Ledger, the Joker is never once mentioned for the whole film.” Because IMDb's content is user-generated, you have to take this with a huge piece of salt; maybe it did come from someone lucky enough to get an advance screening, or maybe it's utter bullshit.

There's a great debate taking place on Reddit about whether it would be more respectful to not involve Heath's memory in any way with the film, or if that's the ultimate dis. Obviously Batman fans want to see a reference to the Joker because it's logical: He wrecked Gotham by the end of the second movie, so even though TDKR is set eight years later, the city is still weakened… which makes Bane's entry that much more dangerous. User RHodeidra best summed it up: “Heath was great, but he was an actor. The Joker is eternal.”

And before you go accusing the fans of not caring about Heath's family, consider that this was one of the seminal roles of his career. Just because it came at the end doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to honor the energy he put into crafting this creepy character who was anathema to any role he'd played before. It's doubly offensive — to audiences and to his memory — to completely ignore the impact he had on the franchise.

However, it seems that this is indeed the route that the producers took with TDKR. Although the issue of the Joker is never mentioned in the official press notes that were released a few weeks ago, Nolan told Empire (via IndieWire), “We're not addressing The Joker at all. That is something I felt very strongly about in terms of my relationship with Heath and the experience I went through with him on The Dark Knight. I didn't want to in any way try and account for a real-life tragedy. That seemed inappropriate to me. We just have a new set of characters and a continuation of Bruce Wayne's story, not involving The Joker.”

Personally, I still think there should be some reference. But I welcome your arguments to the contrary if you think everyone should just leave Heath Ledger alone.

Photo: Warner Bros.