at Aint It Cool has received a picture that is claimed to be a make-up test for the Joker in The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins. I don’t know if this picture is the real deal or not – it doesn’t even look that much like Heath Ledger to me – but if it is the real deal, I must weigh in as very, very unimpressed.

I know, here I am, the only guy who trash talked Batman Begins, getting started early on The Dark Knight. And yes, there aren’t that many things you can do with the Joker’s look and many of you reading this will be happy just to see that he’s retaining something of the classic aspects – the green hair, the white skin. But that’s about all he has. In a lot of ways this Joker, if it’s a real make-up test, looks like a guy who is half-assing it for a Halloween party (and I would actually guess that he was half-assing a Crow costume). That obviously goes hand in hand with Goyer’s ‘realistic’ take on the Batman mythos, which will probably once again fly out the window in a third act full of sturm and dumbness.

In fact even the one aspect I kind of like, the scars at the corners of the Joker’s mouth, are way too understated. Again, that’s probably part of the ‘realistic’ take on the material, which weirds me out because who wants to see a realistic version of a man in a giant batsuit fighting a harlequin? Batman, like every other superhero, is absurd at his core, and running away from that absurdity won’t make it go away. In the sporadic All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Frank Miller has been successfully lampooning the grim n’ gritty Batman he helped create two decades ago, and it’s too bad that Hollywood is so behind the times when it comes to a character who has long ago been played out.

(To be fair, it’s possible that this make-up test is for the Joker when he’s ‘off-duty’, ie that when the Joker is running around committing crimes he’ll do himself up a little more majestically)