By Michael Kaye
Batman: The Killing Joke (Review)
I can't even begin to tell you how long I've been waiting for this movie to finally see the light of day, after years of hearing rumors and speculation about its existence. The original graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland is considered to be one of the greatest Batman stories of all time, as well as the "definitive" origin story for The Joker. Reuniting for this project are producers Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their iconic roles as Batman and The Joker respectively in Batman: The Killing Joke.
Here's the story. As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.
Despite what appears to be a pretty high rating, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot to love about this movie, but there's also some choices that I'm not so happy about. I'll explain in my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the absolute best part of this movie was the performances. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill knocked it out of the park, reminding audiences that these are the definitive voices of these characters. For Hamill, the one scene I was a little nervous about was his "one bad day" monologue in the fun house. There's a excellent fan recording of that monologue on YouTube by PGirts, which set my expectations pretty high, and yet Hamill still managed to surprise me. Ray Wise was a good choice to play Commissioner Gordon, who the Joker torments to the point of insanity. He's kind of playing against type, since I know him best for playing the Devil on an old CW series called Reaper. Finally, Tara Strong reprises her role as an older Barbara Gordon, who we get to spend more time with during the first half hour as Batgirl. She's one of my favorite voice actors working today, so it's always nice to see her getting more work.
The animation looks incredible. One thing I've always been impressed with in all of these DC Original Animated films are how close they replicate the art style of the comic book storyline that's being adapted, and this is no exception. All of the iconic scenes from the graphic novel are translated beautifully, especially the Joker's transformation. Parents, I would not recommend showing this movie to your kids, cause there is some imagery that will traumatize them for life! In the director's chair is Sam Liu, who's previously directed some of my all time favorite DC animated films, such as Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Batman: Year One, Justice League: Gods and Monsters and most recently Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Next to maybe Jay Oliva, I'd say he's one of the best directors that's worked on these DC animated films.
The last positive I have is for the music, composed by Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion and Lolita Ritmanis. I can't quite describe what it is about it that I liked, other than it just felt right. It certainly helps build the tension during the scenes with Gordon and the Joker, and the silence towards the very end of the movie was very unnerving, but in a good way.
Alright, this isn't a complete negative, but I have to address the elephant in the room. Let's talk about the first 30 minutes of this movie.
I'm of two minds when it comes to this prologue. As a standalone Batgirl story, I was kind of getting into it. I like the idea of Batman's involvement in this case, as he's naturally very protective of the members of the Bat family. As a surrogate father figure, I understood exactly where Bruce was coming from. His warning to Batgirl about letting things get too personal with the enemy is a great foreshadowing to the main attraction of this movie.
That being said, what drives me up a tree is the depiction of Bruce and Barbara in a romantic relationship, and I'm not just talking about an implication like in Mystery of the Batwoman. Nope, we actually see the two of them having sex on a rooftop. This is problematic for a number of reasons, especially when you understand exactly how the Bat family works. I just mentioned above that Batman is like a father figure to Barbara, which made watching that scene really awkward. DC's gone back and forth several times about whether or not the graphic novel is canon, but thank God this adaptation is a standalone movie, because I'd hate to see how Dick Grayson would react to what happened. Could this have been the reason why he quit the Robin gig to become Nightwing? I don't know, but I'm really not happy about this addition to the story.
Batman: The Killing Joke could have been amazing, if not for that first half hour. Instead, it's merely a really good elseworld story involving Batman, The Joker and the Gordon family. I'm glad I got to hear some of the best performances from Conroy and Hamill, and I do hope that Bruce Timm sticks around to produce more films in the DC Animated universe. The movie is now available on Digital HD, and in select theaters, so go check it out as soon as you can!
Now I'd like to hear from you guys. Have you seen Batman: The Killing Joke, and if so what did you think? Also, what are some of your favorite DC animated films so far? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.