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.
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.
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.