Over the years we’ve seen many DC Comics graphic novels be loosely adapted into animated films. However it’s rare that we get one that is pretty much a moving replica of the comic book. That’s what we’ve received with this years Batman: The killing Joke. Now does that description mean that it makes for a particularly good movie? Well that’s what we’re here to discuss.
[The remainder of this review will be filled with things that took place in this film, so consider this your spoiler warning]
So basically for those who have read the graphic novel, you know the plot of this movie. For those who haven’t, let me enlighten you. Batman: The Killing Joke is tells the story of The Joker after years of battling with batman. In the story, The Joker is on a mission to show Batman that anyone, even a man as sane as Commissioner Gordon, can go insane from having just one bad day.
One thing the film does is start off differently than the graphic novel did: it served as introduction for Batgirl. We see Barbara Gordon/Batgirl working with Batman, trying to understand her relationship with him while also trying stop a criminal from stirring up trouble in Gotham, and also in her life. Before it was released, we were lead to believe we’d get a fleshed out and proper presence of Batgirl in the film. Sadly, that was hardly the case. Batgirl was portrayed as something of a needy child, seeking the praise and approval of her Yoga instructor, or Batman. After the wannabe crime boss takes a liking to Batgirl, Batman tells her to back off the case. Batgirl gets mad, tries to fight Bats, gets her ass handed to her, and one thing leads to another.This movie definitely received quite a bit of backlash for portraying a sex scene that took place between Batgirl and Batman. The pair has always been presented as having a father-daughter type of relationship, so seeing this take place was somewhat off putting. While it was definitely interesting seeing her engage with her gay coworker at the library and tell her tale before the main event, Barbara/Batgirl’s “story” felt a bit trivial in the grand scheme of things.
Fast forward a bit and we get into the main story. We’re reintroduced to the Joker (voiced by the great Mark Hamill once more), who, to Batman’s surprise, has escaped Arkham for the billionth time. Batman discovers this while explaining to who he thinks is the joker that sooner or later one of them is going to end up killing the other if they don’t stop this game they’ve been playing.
Hearing both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill back in their iconic roles as Batman and The Joker was a treat in itself, and definitely delivered nostalgia. One of the best takeaways from the film was that almost frame by frame, it resembled the graphic novel it was based off of. That being said, some scenes didn’t translate as well as they should have to the big screen. For example, the flashbacks that explain the Joker’s origin had some very cartoonish (for lack of a better term) music playing in the background, and it threw off the mood they we’re probably trying to set. On top of that, the scenes just felt boring, and we’re actually more interesting to read. Imagine that.
As for the R-Rating of the film, would we say it was needed? Not particularly. Sure, there was about one f-bomb, a lot of violence, sex (sort of), and some physical/sexual victimization. The scenes with Gordon being tortured and forced to look at images of his daughter after she was shot and stripped down were definitely very dark moments, but the content in this film wasn’t unlike the content that we’ve seen in other DC animated films in their canon. We’re guessing the desire to brand a film based off of this story with an R-Rating was just too much to resist, so they tried their best to incorporate things that would fit the bill. Unfortunately, they came up a bit too short.
In the end, Batman: The Killing Joke was a sub par attempt to turn an iconic graphic novel into an iconic animated film. It felt slow, disconnected, and forced throughout the whole thing. We’ll admit that it also felt easy to empathize with some of the characters due to the fact that we could hear their emotions through their voices rather than have to imagine them while reading, but something as little as that couldn’t turn this decent film into a great one. Most fans watched the movie due solely to the fact that it’d feature the return of Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker, and Bruce Timm would be executive producing the project. They served their purposes the best they could, but in the end, this is still one of those stories that would’ve been better off without a film adaptation.
Batman: The Killing Joke receives a 6.5 out of 10 from Superhero Task Force
Batman: The Killing Joke is currently available for digital download, and will be available on Blu-ray on August 2nd, 2016.