Batman: The Killing Joke Review

thekillingjoke

Batman: The Killing Joke once again sees the folks at Warner Bros Animation adapt a classic tale from the annals of DC Comics yore. Based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel, The Killing Joke is considered to be one of the finest Caped Crusader books of all time alongside The Dark Knight Returns (which has already been transformed into a two part cartoon starring the vocal talents of Peter “Robocop” Weller.) This exploration into the origins of the Joker has a number of disturbing moments earning it a fifteen classification in the UK and an R rating stateside. I remember the days when an R rating was considered to be a sales kiss of death, but that all changed when Deadpool exceeded box office expectations.

OVERVIEW

One hurdle Warner Bros had to surmount when bringing The Killing Joke over to DVD was the source material’s length. Usually when turning a book into a film content has to be exorcised. In this case however, given that Moore’s work barely surpasses sixty pages, a prologue was tacked onto the main event giving the feature a seventy-seven minute running time. The newly created intro, penned by Wonder Woman scribe Brian Azzarello, sees Batman and Batgirl tangle with a chauvinistic mobster named Paris Franz (hehe I love the pun.) It’s a solid story that wouldn’t look out of place within the episode list of Bruce Timm’s nineties Batman animated series. Your opinion may differ however, as the decision to turn Batman and Batgirl’s relationship from vigilante/sidekick to romantic partners has caused much controversy.

Whether you love or loathe the opening scenes, once The Killing Joke proper begins viewers can rest assured that they will be treated to an extremely faithful adaptation. On paper the storyline is fairly straightforward. Joker has once again absconded from Arkham and has decided to celebrate his freedom by abducting commissioner Gordon. In order to rescue the commish Batman travels to an abandoned amusement park in a case that will test his sanity and morals. Flashbacks are weaved into the narrative showing how a family tragedy and a chemical dip turned a once meek comedian into Batman’s greatest foe. One bad day is all it takes for a normal person to become a psychopath. I can certainly believe that – just look how gamers begin to post death threats whenever the press reveal that an upcoming title has been delayed.

VERDICT

My rating for Batman: The Killing Joke is a five out of five. After watching the movie I can certainly see why Alan Moore’s graphic novel has earned the critical acclaim that endures to this day. As someone who hasn’t read the source material I was un-phased by the extra content that opens the movie. If anything I think spending time with Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) enhances the experience, as audiences will become attached to the character making what transpires later all the more impactful. With respect to the romance I don’t see what the big deal is, aside from the age gap causing some discomfort. In other media (such as Batman Beyond) it is implied that both characters were once an item, plus it’s not a stretch to believe that Batgirl would become attracted to a dashing billionaire who has saved her life on countless occasions.

Like with most DC animated movies the voice work is exceptional. Kevin Conroy is tremendous as Batman whilst Mark Hamill’s rendition of the One Bad Day speech sent chills down my spine. On the visual front, I have no complaints with the animation. The artwork doesn’t retain the look of the original comic, but during a few key scenes it does try to replicate Brian Bolland’s illustrations. In terms of script I am also satisfied with the end result. The DVD will be too distressing for viewers who like the jovial Batman of the sixties or The Brave and the Bold, but for anyone else I can highly recommend this film. I think we should all be appreciative that The Killing Joke can finally be enjoyed on our television sets. If bat sex bothers you just use your remote control to skip past the first few chapters.

19 thoughts on “Batman: The Killing Joke Review

  1. I haven’t read the graphic novel but the 40+ minutes that covered it did encourage me to check it out at some point.
    Not much to add since you reviewed it in a similar way I would have if I still reviewed non-yuri media: stellar voice acting, solid animation, solid adaptation when it focused on it and the first 28-30 minutes aren’t bad but ultimately contributed nothing to the main event. While I too feel Troy Baker could make a pretty good successor to Mark Hamill after his official retirement, the OG animated Joker voice actor continues showing why he’s one of the most revered actors to portray the character in all media. Same goes for Kevin Conroy’s Batman.

    Also props for the Brave and the Bold mention. Caped Crusader Batman deserves more respect and shouldn’t be looked down upon.

    • Brave and the Bold shouldn’t be discounted just because dark Batman is currently all the rage. I think the character is popular because there are different renditions of the hero that appeal to different tastes.

      I think the Joker is good hands with Baker. Replacing Conroy will be very difficult. Other movies I have seen were Batman is voiced by someone else just isn’t the same.

      Perhaps the Yuri Nation can cover DC stuff in the future. I hear Bad Blood features the lesbian heroine Batwoman.

      • Precisely. Dark Knight Batman is the more popular version but people forget that thanks to Adam West’s show and the early years of comics, Caped Crusader Batman was all the rage.

        Yup. His performances in Arkham Origins and Assault on Arkham show that he knows how to play the Joker.

        Yes she’s a big player in Bad Blood. I should finish that one.

  2. Haven’t seen or read the story but I know the gist of it from friends who enjoy comics. This seems like a nice breakdown of the movie and covers from what I hear is the most controversial of its elements in the prologue. Congratulations on three years!

    • I finally sold out haha 🙂 Seriously though, I just figured it would be good to diversify a bit by covering movies in addition to the usual stuff. Maybe it will result in more content being uploaded, as a movie is quicker to finish than a series or video game. Don’t worry though, I’m hoping to review an anime next time.

  3. I think this might be the first five out of five that I’ve seen you give (I’ll have to double check that), so I know that this is definitely worth the watch, it’s been added to my list.

    • Compared to other critics I think I am generous in the scoring department. In recent times I gave Fire Emblem and Zero Time Dilemma a five. Hope you end up enjoying the movie as much as I did. Looking online it seems like I am in the minority. People who love the comic seem to hate the Batgirl prologue.

  4. Very nice review. You mentioned that this movie is very faithful to the original source, where the Joker’s intended target was Jim Gordon. Is that still the case here? From what you described about Batman and Barbara’s relationship, it seems like the trauma was focused toward Batman?

    • In the verdict section I mentioned that I haven’t read the book so I am basing that statement on remarks made by other sources. The Joker does try to make Jim Gordon crack, although the finale suggests that in the end what transpired affected Batman more than the commissioner.

  5. I didn’t know you’d reviewed this one. I watched it on a whim and didn’t like it, and that’s coming from someone who considers the graphic novel to be one of the best in the Batman mythos. Of course I despised the prologuey stuff, but I even found most of the rest of the film to be subpar. Maybe the novel ruined the adaptation for me? Which is fine by me but everyone who loved it seems to not have read the book?

    • Well generally speaking they do say that the book is always better than the movie. Those invested in the novel have high expectations that are tough to meet whilst people not familiar with the source material will be blown away by the story, just like readers were years ago when the comic came out.

      Some people have bashed Hamill’s delivery of the closing speech. Maybe that’s a case of people being accustomed to previous interpretations that they have heard? On Youtube alone I have seen some awesome vids of other actors reading out those lines.

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