Warner Bros. Animation presents the much anticipated cinematic adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 iconic Batman story, The Killing Joke. The story acts as a bottle-neck episode in the careers of both the Caped Crusader and Clown Prince of Crime showing their last climactic confrontation, as well as shedding some light on a possible origin story of the man who would become Batman’s arch enemy, the Joker. The movie welcomes legendary voice actors Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy who uttered every growl, laugh and monologue for their respective characters from the 90s to the early 2000s. Also, Tara Strong, who is no stranger to lending her voice talents to DC animated films, joins the cast as Batgirl/Barbara Gordon.
As the story goes, Batman makes a final attempt to reach Joker while in jail and appeal to his humanity. Batman wants to avoid killing him or being killed or risking the citizens of Gotham. When it turns out Batman is talking to a decoy and that the Joker is loose, it sets off a chain of events that changes the lives of Batman, his protege Batgirl and her father, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon. Can Batman stop the madman in time before someone gets killed?
In this article I will give my thoughts about what I liked and didn’t like. In a separate article I will publish a spoiler-heavy post about story details and plot points.
- What I LikedSeeing the legendary comic come to life onscreen. The dialogue and scenes ripped straight from the pages of Moore/Bolland’s comic book is surreal. Hearing the voices of Hamill and Conroy again sent me back to that happy child-like state of watching Batman cartoons on Saturday morning on the Kid’s WB network. I could also appreciate the more adult tone, moody music, violence and profanity.Finally, I respected the creative liberties taken to add context and world-building to the movie such as Paris Franz, a mobster who takes a liking to Batgirl, he really starts to focus on her and its fun to watch this villain get into her head and watch them go toe to toe psychologically.
The Joker’s fun house rhyme is made into an actual musical number like off Broadway. In the comic book one can assume that the Joker is singing but there are no musical notes or other visual cues to convey that. Hamill’s singing voice is terrific and the jingle was stuck in my head for days.
The climactic battle in the book takes place amid fun house mirrors but the movie stages it in an upside down kitchen set-up in the crazy fun house recalling Joker’s sympathetic dinner flashback with his wife. It ties up his history nicely and speaks to his insanity by turning a once peaceful and loving setting into a den of madness.
- What I Did Not LikeThe romance between Batman and Batgirl in the first Act, and how emotionally distant Batman is from the story.Fans were already spoiled by online imagery surrounding a new romantic arc between Batman and Batgirl. Sadly the romance paints us a young woman who only took up crime-fighting to get close to Batman. Hints of attraction between the two go back as far as the 90s cartoons and I could tell the writers really believed in using the heroine’s emotions to add complexity to her, but it comes up short. Her crime-fighting career is tied to her relationship with Batman instead the pursuit of justice. But, I see what they were trying to do. I think a dedication to her developing skills as vigilante, such as learning a new fighting style or computer hacking or coding, and the loyalty between the heroes would have been better suited for the first Act of the movie and added much needed cohesiveness later on.
Which segues into how inaccessible Batman is. Conroy’s work is fine but I fault the story was holding him back on an emotional level. I strangely couldn’t connect with him and he seems to keep Batgirl and the audience at arm’s length, and its frustrating especially as the stakes get higher. Weird.
- OverallI enjoyed the movie, the theater experience was a plus in fact. My friends know that I enjoy seeing adaptations first and then reading the source material second because of the “the book is better anyway”attitude. I’d suggest going against that for this movie and reading the comic book first. My main gripe is that the first Act falls flat and doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the movie very well and that’s too bad and at this point when I watch it again on Blu-ray I feel like skipping the first half hour and getting straight to the “killing joke” parts of the movie. Hearing Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy reprise their roles for such classic story is worth checking this out, and even if you don’t read the comic prior to viewing, this is going to be the most visceral confrontation between animated Batman and Joker that you will see for a long time.Did you see Batman: The Killing Joke in theaters? Or will you wait for the Blu-ray release on August 2nd, 2016? Did you read the comic book version? Let me know in the Comments section.
I’d like to thank Jasmine Jones for the opportunity to write a fun comic book -themed article with Neonfade and I look forward to the next chance to contribute again 🙂