Directed by Sam Liu, starring Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong and Ray Wise. The Joker has once again escaped Arkham Asylum, but his new plan of attack on Batman is far darker and certainly more personal.
The Killing Joke is an iconic 1988 Oneshot graphic novel, written by Alan Moore. It is, purposefully I feel, not an overly long comic thus allowing the narrative to be that much more sadistic and impacting for the reader. An Intelligent, dark sadistic narrative into madness is probably the most apt description of the comic. It provides the reader with an insight into the mind of The Joker, forever demonstrating how maniacal and twisted he is, as one of the most revered villains in comics, The Killing Joke changed the DC universe for Batman forever.
I first read The Killing Joke a number of years ago and was immediately gripped by its content, it’s an intelligent story that defines both The Joker, Batman and their eternal relationship.
Though DC films have received varying degrees of success and failure over the last 10 years, with Nolan’s Batman appearing to be the peak for the moment; at least in regards to the Batman stories. The animated DC films continue to be far more successful, perhaps because they are allowed the creative freedom to imprint directly from the comics in a way mainstreams film have yet to fully accomplish. So when it was announced that The Killing Joke was to be given the same treatment, fans of the story and of comic books, in general, were ecstatic, a beloved narrative coming to animation life with fan favourites Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy returning respectively as The Joker and Batman. The film was given limited release in theatres but available instantly online upon the day.
The film has received a mixed reception, to say the least, owing to the first half an hour of the film. Whoever made the creative decision to add this side story to the film in order to focus on Batgirl, was vastly mistaken. Though I see the thinking behind it as by placing more importance on this character it attempts to further instil the feeling of empathy, as if that’s needed given the events that occur, they have not only vastly misunderstood the character, but have written some bizarre pointless sexual relationship between herself and Batman. Not only does this utterly reconfigure their relationship by changing the dynamics entirely, it reduces her character to a love sick teenage girl, Barbra Gorden is much more than this. To indulge in some sort of romantic side story involving Batman and Batgirl is quite disturbing to watch, particularly when you consider Batman’s relationship to the various Robins has always been a literal or metaphorical father to son relationship.
The Narrative within the first half somewhat changes the tone and theme of The Killing Joke as we are introduced to a boring hedonistic villain whose ultimate ambition is to gain a large fortune and work his way into Batgirl’s pants. This narrative makes for a boring and at times crude side story, particularly when you are waiting for the arrival of one of the most iconic villains of all time. It is unclear whether the thought process was an attempt to connect Batgirl to the audience further, thus creating a greater impact for several iconic moments in The Killing Joke, or was it the need for some reason to justify the money spent on animation. Either idea fails and seems utterly pointless given the fame of the comic guaranteeing a large audience.
As soon as the absolute nonsense of the first half hour comes to a close, the Killing Joke actually begins. The iconic one shot comic book comes to life in animated form as a number of scenes and lines of dialogue are lifted directly from the pages. The animation between present day and the Joker’s origin story is seamless with particular famous moments given more attention in the animation which works perfectly for the dark madness of the story. The tone is purposefully dark and violent in order to correctly instil upon the audience the intelligent sadistic madness that is The Joker. His origin story is wonderfully told as an insight into his life rarely shown.
As I am familiar with the story, I was prepared for some of the darker scenes; however, I was not prepared for the very last scene of the film which proved to be the most spin chilling moment, executed perfectly.
OVERALL- **** Although the actual Killing Joker storyline is spot on, it takes a while to get past the appalling, poorly written and sexist first half hour. The animation, the cast and the general tone of the second half are far superior.
RECOMMENDATION- Absolutely watch this film, but at home so that you have the ability to click on the 30 minutes mark allowing you skip to The Killing Joke.