Batman: The Killing Joke (REVIEW)
Written By Jacob Chimilar (@sweetlows)
After The Dark Knight Returns was released as a 2 part animated movie, fans were certainly clamoring for more hardcore, animated Batman stories. One such story was "The Killing Joke" graphic novel by Alan Moore. It tells what many people have said to be "the definitive Joker origin story". It's very dark, twisted and certainly not for kids. When it was announced that not only would it be adapted as a Rated R story but that the team of Bruce Timm, Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong and Mark Hamill would lend their talents to adapting the graphic novel, people were rightly excited to see the comic brought to life.
The main obstacle that the story faces is that DC animated films are usually 75 minutes long. The Killing Joke is a very short story that would fit 45 minutes tops. So what do you do to fill those extra 30 minutes? Create a brand new 30 minute prologue that features Batgirl as a set up for events that happen later on during the main story arc.
The prologue finds Batgirl going on a mission with Batman to take down the nephew of one of the biggest crime bosses in Gotham, Paris. He takes a liking to Batgirl and decides to cut her in on his mischief. This is meant to mirror Batman's relationship with the Joker and how he likes to play games. Batman advises her to stay out of it because he is keenly aware of the dark path a man like Paris can lead her down. In addition to that Batgirl has the hots for Batman and in talks with one of her friends as Barbra Gordon reveals that she just wants him to love her and for them to be together.
This added storyline, while I can see that it's trying to make you feel for Batgirl is really like a lame knock off of the Batman/Joker dynamic that isn't nearly as compelling. It feels like the same old, young buck sidekick (like Robin) trying to prove themselves to the established Batman so that they can compete on the same level, with some sexual tension thrown in. Even though it's supposed to tie into the rest of the film, it honestly does nothing for it. it really is just 30 minutes of padding that in the end doesn't give much extra weight or meaning to the story, which is unfortunate.
The rest of the film is a huge improvement. It's the real meat and potatoes we came to see. Hamill's performance as The Joker over the years has been legendary and this time around he absolutely crushed it. We see some flashbacks to his pre-Joker days and the way he is able to subtly change his voice and tone was wonderful. Seeing a fragile young comedian trying to make ends meet for his family knowing later how far he has fallen is actually quite heartbreaking to watch. You really feel for this guy. His Joker persona is just as upsetting as you watch him try to turn others to his side by making them suffer the same pain he has been through. He feels that all it takes is "one bad day" to turn good people bad, and that is the basis of the flashbacks, following his "bad day". Without getting too spoiler-y for those who haven't read the comic, he does some pretty terrible things to prove his point.
I honestly think that this is a wonderful adaptation of the graphic novel and were it not for the first 30 minutes more people would have been happy with it. The only other gripe I have is with the animation. It can be a bit choppy and rigid at times. Also Joker's face is weirdly off putting and not up to par with the vocal performance which really is a shame.
If you do get a chance to watch this with the ability to skip the first 28 minutes. please do so, you will be rewarded with a great story and wonderful performances. The animation isn't always pretty, and while at times graphic is an excellent Joker story with a knockout performance by Mark Hamill that definitely deserves a watch.