SPOILER ALERT FOR BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE
One of the best and most controversial Batman stories finally gets an animated movie. The original plot by comic legend Alan Moore took an in-depth look at one of the most infamous characters of DC comics, the Joker, as he commits one of his most atrocious crimes. Will the film be remembered as successfully adapting a classic, or does it fall short of recreating the magic?
It should be noted that the reviewer has never read the original graphic novel and went into the movie with just the rudimentary information about the original story. This means this review will be based on the movie itself without comparing it to the original graphic novel.
Even without reading the the comic it’s easy to tell what parts of the story are what are new for the film. It’s mostly the new stuff involving Batgirl which doesn’t really feel organic. She becomes the focus of a mob boss named Paris Franz (seriously who came up with this name?) who becomes obsessed with her. Sadly, it doesn’t really add to her character or to the film once focus goes back to the Joker and his story.
Once the Joker shows up, he steals the show and makes you forget about the first twenty minutes of film ever happened. Which really just leads you to ask, “Why did the new stuff have to be added at all?”
The story on the Joker is the best part of the movie. The plot shows just how far he will go to show that everyone is just as crazy as him. From showing his origin and the execution of his new plan, Batman: The Killing Joke is an intense ride. This is the better part of the film, and does show that there is something enjoyable to find in the film.
Time to address the elephant in the room, the Batman/Batgirl sex scene that everyone has been talking about. While it does feel weird, there is buildup to it as Batgirl does express how she wants Batman to open up and wants their relationship to be something more. This is an interesting idea, but sadly this is still part of the first twenty minutes. Refer back to the above comment on this being unnecessary padding to the overall story.
Adding more Batgirl doesn’t really help to make her later tragedy less intense or redeeming or whatever reason the director was working on to achieve with it. Also, while looking at the attempts to explore the character more were at least halfway justified, it’s hard not to ask what the purpose of the scene where Batgirl is going out for a run in her civilian outfit. Here the screen makes sure to zoom in on her butt and chest as she exercises. This scene felt more exploitative than the implied sex scene was, and really makes you question the director’s choice with the storyboards.
The ending just seems awkward. There was confirmation that this was how the original comic ended, but here it just feels abrupt, like there needed to be an extra bit of exchange between Joker and Batman. Sadly, the credits role and nothing is truly resolved except to confirm the two characters will just keep fighting until the end. If a scene of padding was needed this is where it should have been placed.
The music for the film is captivating. The use of the orchestra for the more action and dramatic moments is good while the use of jazz beat helps to showcase the flashbacks into the Joker’s past. The music helps really adds the necessary atmosphere to the piece and the specific bits were so really captivating.
The movie does feature a song by Joker in which he sings while torturing his victim. The song starts out well and feels a bit disturbing, but it does seem to go on for a bit too long. It’s hard to tell if shortening it would have helped or not, but it definitely felt like it may have benefited from being like 30 seconds shorter.
The movie has some really stellar performances by Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, and Tara Strong as Batgirl. Hamill and Conroy slip back into their roles and deliver exquisite performances as ever, and Hamill’s Joker does help to steal the show. Strong also easily recaptures her work as Batgirl but it should be asked why she has to do some of the more background voices on top of being one of the main characters. Doesn’t she have enough to to do?
Ray Wise providing the voice for James Gordon seems a bit too soft spoken for the role. Gordon gets put through the ringer by Joker and watches his daughter be victimized, but doesn’t deliver the reactions which one would expect for someone experiencing this kind of horror. Wise could have delivered a bit more energy given the scenes.
The animation is presented well enough but feels kinda drab in certain moments. There are few outstanding visuals, such as when the Joker shows up in his vacation outfit with a look of death in his eyes, or when Bullock and Batman find some of his victims. Other moments, like at the Joker’s circus feels kinda dull in an effort to show the place is run down. There are ways to show places as being rundown without simply more bits of brown and black to make it look dirty.
This special screening of this film through Fathom Events featured an opening featurette where Mark Hamill talked about his experiencing providing the voice for the Joker, and an additional one at the end showing the creation of the music for the film. These featurettes are very interesting, especially the look at the Joker and Hamill’s experience with him. Unfortunately, these bits feel like they are more padding to add to the film because the original story wasn’t long enough for a full feature.
Frankly the film is not as entertaining as it should be. The grand moment of the film happens when Batgirl is shot, but sadly afterward there is still 30 minutes left and it isn’t nearly as thrilling. The fans finally got an animated version of The Killing Joke, but in the end it’s only worthy of a faint chuckle.