Batman: The Killing Joke – 3 out of 5
Batman: The Killing Joke from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland is widely held as one of the quintessential Batman/Joker stories that has ever come out in the world of comics. Its dark story, ambiguous ending and its exploration of the chaotic relationship between the hero and the villain has proven to stand the test of time and fans were quite excited for this book to be adapted into an animated film. Personally, while I enjoy the book and own it, I find it to be a tad overrated but, nevertheless, I was pretty interested in seeing it adapted.
|Turns out it's not his card. Batman's card is Justice!|
Even though he’s currently being held at Arkham Asylum, a murder that seems like it was done by The Joker (Mark Hamill) is committed and Batman (Kevin Conroy) must go to meet with his arch-nemesis to get to the bottom of the crime. However, the World’s Greatest Detective is shocked to learn that he has, in fact, escaped and aims to take his revenge on Commissioner Gordon (Ray Wise). After shooting Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong) in the spine, The Joker kidnaps the Commissioner and takes him away to an abandoned carnival and begins to psychologically torture the man. Now Batman must save the him and, once again, bring The Joker in.
|"And then he said, 'The Aristocrats.'"|
For the most part, I was pretty disappointed with The Killing Joke. While part of this disappointment stems from the fact the character design, in an effort to match their other animation features, doesn’t come close to the work that was done on the original book and I wasn't a fan of the ambiguous ending of the source material being completely ignored and replaced with a single theory that is given about the story and this theory is done so completely on the nose; however, those mumbles and grumbles can easily be overlooked. The real killer to the film is the extended prologue of the story.
|Still, it gets points for pulling iconic images from the pages.|
In an effort to extend the running time to something worth the retail price, a prologue was added that featured more of Batgirl. In the story, Batgirl’s role is limited to being a plot device and serves no purpose than to be crippled by The Joker and for it to be suggested that she was also sexually assaulted by the crazy man. This was a sign of the times as female characters still weren’t really treated as equals when this book came out (according to Alan Moore, DC was quoted to saying “Yeah, cripple the bitch,” when he asked if he could do this to Batgirl) and the producers decided that the audience needs to feel for Barbara Gordon more and by expanding her role will help that. That way, when tragedy strikes, you’ll care more. Here’s the problem: I think they overcorrected and made things worse.
|I can't tell if Batman approves of the changes since he always looks|
disappointed about everything.
|They even included this shot of Batgirl.|
DC really respects their female characters, eh?
In the same way DC thinks that you need to get a close up of Starfire’s ass twice while she’s changing into her costume in Justice League vs. Teen Titans, they decided the best way to make Barbara Gordon more sympathetic was to make her emotionally uncontrollable and to give her a sex scene with Batman. And yes, the sex scene was as creepy as you’d think it would be. The film literally takes away Batgirl’s role as a hero because she couldn’t get her lust for Batman under control. What the living hell? This is like the political figureheads who claim women can’t do certain jobs because they’ll just fall in love with their male coworkers. Even Alan Moore has gone on record and stated that he mishandled Barbara in the comic and then DC goes and mishandles her even more? Hell, this prologue felt less like DC was trying to make Batgirl more sympathetic and more like they were actively trying to make her even less of an interesting character and, rather, turn her into a walking joke of bad writing. This really was a HUGE killer for the film.
|This really didn't need to exist.|
These complaints aside, I want to make it clear that The Killing Joke wasn’t a complete waste of my time. After the uncomfortable prologue ends, the film does a great job at adapting the source material and does so with a fairly close proximity to 100% accuracy. Additionally, even though I wanted to see the character design match the comic, I thought the animation was great and the voice acting was top notch. Finally, the strongest aspect of this film was reuniting of the, in my opinion, two best men to voice Batman and The Joker; Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. Hearing these two together is like music to my ears and was, without a doubt, the best part of the film for me.
|Here's a pic of Kevin Conroy and I. I'm the dork in the Doctor Who scarf.|
Batman: The KillingJoke is pretty hard to watch in the beginning because the prologue does nothing to help out the character of Batgirl. Ultimately, however, the film is redeemed when the actually story from the source material takes over and gets going. With that being said, I was still pretty underwhelmed with this film and pretty disappointed with how DC handled it.