Batman: The Killing Joke Review

“Batman: The Killing Joke” is the latest attempt in bringing a classic and revered graphic novel to life.  From the creators of “Batman The Animated Series,” comes “The Killing Joke” based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.  The animated movie features the voice talents of Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong and Ray Wise.  “Batman: The Killing Joke” tells the story of one very bad day, as The Joker brutally paralyses Barbara Gordon, while kidnapping Jim Gordon and pushing him to the edge of madness.  Batman must square off against his arch-nemesis and come face to face with evil and chaos.

“The Killing Joke” is heralded as being one of the best Batman comics but also one of the best comic books ever written.  The story shows the Joker’s origin, how he donned that famous red hood, fell into a vat of chemicals which dyed his hair green and face white.  The book also shows the horrific acts as The Joker shoots Barbara Gordon in the spine and allegedly rapes her while taking pictures, before submitting her father to a carnival torture.  The book when it came out in 1988 was extremely controversial and brutally violent and with this animated film we get the same thing.  This film is NOT for kids.  There is an insane amount of blood and violence which we expect from the movie but there are also a lot of adult themes that kids should not see.  The movie, like the comic is strangely disturbing but also extremely good.

Now the hype for this film has been through the roof.  When they announced this movie a year ago and that Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy were coming back to play Batman and Joker, people went crazy.  The animation matched the comic book and the film even received a theatrical release in theaters.  And when the film debuted at comic this summer, fans were not only let down but they were also angered.  “The Killing Joke” as a source material is very short.  So the producers decided to spotlight a half an hour on a Barbara Gordon/Batgirl prequel to set her character up.  Now unlike the fans who hated this backstory, I didn’t mind it at all.  In fact, I loved that they set up Barbara as a main character and major plot point because it adds to Batman’s motivation to pursue the Joker.  There’s also a strange sex scene between Batman and Batgirl that people are up in arms about but that didn’t bother me either.  If anything, it shows that Batman and Batgirl are flawed human beings who make mistakes just like you and me.  It made them feel more real, so I don’t know what people are bitching about.

When we finally get to the actual “Killing Joke” story, the movie really takes off and it closely resembles the comic so you feel like you are actually reading it.  The animation is done really well and the voice cast is phenomenal with Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy.  I couldn’t have wanted more from the two iconic Batman voice cast.  Where the movie ultimately fails for me is the very ending.  I thought the end was so bland and plain, with nothing really happening.  I know that’s kind of how the book ended, but since this is a film, they could have changed the ending and made it better because after all, this is an adaptation.  The film ends, like the comic on such a small and meaningless note with no real resolution and with a lot of unanswered questions.  So for being a big fan of this material, I will say that “The Killing Joke” is a good but not amazing adaptation like I thought it would be.  But nevertheless, I still enjoyed the film quite a bit.

“The Killing Joke” had the potential to be a game changer for DC’s animated properties.  There was so much going for it and for the most part the film delivers, but there are moments of pause and slow pacing that made the movie feel like nothing more than reading the comic.  The voice cast was great and the animation was good, but parts of the story, especially the ending made this a so so adaptation for a DC film.  “The Dark Knight Returns” is still the best adaptation of a Batman graphic novel that I have ever seen, and it’s a shame that the “Killing Joke” didn’t pack that gut punch that other Batman movies have given us.  In saying that though, “The Killing Joke” is still really enjoyable and violent and for adults only.  Let’s hope they go in a different direction next time with their animated films.

Grade:  B-

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