Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

Sometimes in life, there are stories which we read and feel a sense of desire in their animation. Stories which in the end, we seem considerable about the art in front of us be it verbal, graphical or auditory to be made truly visual. Well the DC have been picking up on this a bit more than Marvel with a small number of their animated movies which have become remodelled showings that have transcended more positively than the live action extended universe which has recently manifested in the cinemas. Over a year ago, however, DC decided to be less contemporary in the stories they were animating (mainly New 52 stuff) and decided on something more classical. This was announced as Alan Moore’s ‘The Killing Joke’; a 1988 Batman one-shot whose positive reviewing was reflected by the controversy of a powerfully gritty Joker-orientated story. Nevertheless if has been considered as one of the greatest Batman stories ever written, so much so in fact that it was meant to be a non-canonical story that was liked so much it was made canon to DC’s colourful universe. About a year ago it was also announced that Mark Hamill, who role of voicing the Joker is as renowned as his role as Luke Skywalker came out of his retirement from the Joker calling the Arkham City video game the peak of his voicing work as the Clown Prince of Crime. Yet this was the call he had been waiting for. Fans were excited, Kevin Conroy came back as Batman and now it was official, one of the greatest Batman stories in the DC Universe was been animated and it was also going to get Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy to play their part since what seemed like forever. What made the whole thing even better for me was a one day only screening was in one of the local cinemas and so I went straight in to get my ticket and after waiting a month I was finally able to watch the film. That was a week ago and I feel like I have a few thoughts on The Killing Joke movie on what I liked and how it wasn’t how I was expecting it.

I’m not gonna go into the plot of The Killing Joke like I do with most of my reviews. The story has been out for some 27 years now. I’m just going to say that there are some differences in story in terms of the film and the graphic novel and that a few spoilers even to someone who has read the book would be fair to be stated. So right now I’m going to just do the criticising, the good points, the bad points and the overall feel I felt about ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’. Okay? Okay.


So, in the end of it all ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ wasn’t truly great, is was quite that bit more underwhelming than I was expecting. There, I said it! I’m surprised to say the least. I was expecting this to surpass or at least par the other DC animated films, like ‘Under the Red Hood’, ‘Superman/Batman: Apocalypse’ or ‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’. To start I thought I just wasn’t feeling it, like it hadn’t sunk in or I was a bit depersonalised from the experience and I needed to see it again. I mean it had Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, even Ray Wise as Commissioner Gordon which fitted quite well. The dialogue was good and I don’t blame it on that. I think in the end it was the level of adaptation. When it comes to the classic stories and making them into film, be that live action or animated, in this case, it has to be delicate to make it alike  what it is based on but also to a grander point make it run in a comfortable manner even if that makes it rough on its connection to originality. ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ seems to be so accurate, in the second part of the film, to the book that my reading and how I remembered it seemed quite out of synch with the watching of it even if it was the same dialogue and context. I number of the Joker’s preaccident scenes felt rushed and it feel like Hamill was not added the element of drama to them. The Joker is more of a dramatic and larger character as a super villain than as a down-on-his-luck husband that you can hear it but it makes the bond with him as a person seem less necessary. Whereas with the book where I could pick on every detail and feel the environment put in front of me, the movie had more of a scene after scene dot-to-dot feel to it.

As for the first half with Barbara as Batgirl, I understand what Bruce Timm is saying based on liking the character and putting more of her presence in this film. Yet to have her just complain that her biggest problem is that she isn’t equal to Batman is something that seemed boring and not needed. The way that she is not respected by the criminals she defeats because she is a woman is one-dimensional and dull. Maybe it is a way to make me feel annoyed by the criminals that I want justice but it feels slabbed onto their personalities and makes the fights feel uncomfortable to watch. Then the overall conclusion to it all as Batman teaches Batgirl a lesson on her been well… bossy for no reason. Then they have not-on-screen sex and Batman just acts all quiet and regretful over his partnership with her which again is something I don’t find enjoyable to watch. The fact that this is how this film start and this is not part of the adaptation part; not at all part of The Killing Joke story makes watching the part I went to the cinema to watch exhausting and heightens the impatience of watching it.

In the end, Batman: The Killing Joke is a worthwhile watch but if you can read the book that is definitively better. It is a short read and the art is a great part of the experience of reading The Killing Joke. All I can say is have an open mind watching it and also don’t take any of the film before Batman goes to Arkham and has his talk to the Joker as true material to the story but as ‘filler’ to make it something of a cinematic duration.

Right that’s all I’m gonna say. A bit short, I know but I’ve made the points that I wanted to make.