By Marc Bernardin
December 17, 2007 at 06:44 PM EST

Finally, here it is, the long-awaited official first glimpse — in motion, anyway — of Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker.

And, you know what? I feel a little let down. The problem is, there’s no real wiggle room when it comes to interpreting this character. Everyone who’s ever played him — from Cesar Romero back in the ’60s, to Jack Nicholson (who probably delivered the definitive performance) to Mark Hamill on the Batman animated series — has had to blend mania and hysteria, and top it with a plummy renegade cackle.

Which is exactly what Ledger is doing. Sure, he looks different — that makeup does go a long way towards making him look genuinely scary, as opposed to harlequin silly — and the film seems to be treating him differently, with more heft, than in the past. But that’s the job: play this dude like a force of pathological nature.

My favorite shot of the whole thing? It comes early on, with Batman standing atop a skyscraper at dusk, surveying his city. He just looks so…small. The comics offer that image all the time, and he always appears larger than life, as if his wingspan was wide enough to envelop all of Gotham. But here, you really get the Herculean nature of the task Bruce Wayne has set before him. He’s just one man. And it’s a big city.

And, all of that said, I still can’t wait for July.

(But the Bat-cycle — sorry — isn’t all that.)