There have been many stories told between Batman, his allies, and the villains that want to bring the bat down along with Gotham City. Since 1939, Batman has become one of the most recognizable superheroes while capturing the hearts of many fans today. You can see his popularity ranging to virtually every demographic spanning across a wide array of multimedia platforms. Despite all the grandiose stories told none is more controversial than Alan Moore’s ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’.
Before heading into the review, it seems the movie itself has earned a tale of criticism for the prologue being an unneeded disaster storytelling while ‘The Killing Joke’ portion is a true masterpiece that many were hurrying to see from the beginning. There has been plenty of criticism of the film itself for being misogynistic, too disturbing, and visceral when the story in the comics has earned the respect it has for fans given its surrealness added to a villain that has been penned to be a psychopath.
For such a definitive Joker storyline, audiences won’t even see the Clown Prince of Crime until a third into the film. Screenwriter Brian Azzarello made a calculated decision to write in an unnecessary Batgirl storyline before we finally get to the Killing Joke storyline. Regardless of what your thoughts are of the Batgirl controversy, we can assume that this storyline was created to establish an intimate connection with her before her encounter with the Joker. Yet there’s a noticeable disconnect between the two storylines.
The voice work is another chemistry driven part of the movie. Kevin Conroy’s tone is handled well as he remains the definitive Batman in the animated series. A mixture of calm negotiation (Michael Keaton’s Batman) and the rage required gives this Batman a well-roundedness. Mark Hamill’s Joker, is beyond perfect to most fan’s pleasure. Whenever Hamill plays The Joker you can tell, he relishes in delivering the lines and has fun with it, bringing the horrifying psychopath to life. It definitely shows the difference of The Joker from ‘The Batman Animated Series’. Another one of Hamill’s key moments voicing The Joker is him singing his climatic song in the middle of a fairground nightmare. Ray Wise steps into Jim Gordon’s role for the first time and handles it well, especially considering the desperate places he must take the character. Tara Strong is a strong Batgirl, as always. She’s likely the best part of the forgettable first half and handles the horrors of the second have quite well.
The visuals definitely leave much to be desired given the hype for the movie. Compared with Brian Bolland’s stunning artwork from the graphic novel, the animation looks cheap. The awkward shading and some of the facial expressions totally don’t provide the awe-inspiring impact of Bolland’s work usually does gives those memorable moments.
Overall, The Killing Joke did have a chance at being one of the best films DC has put out. Even with establishing a role for Batgirl the better half of the film is the most intriguing viewing you’ll enjoy is the part that introduces the Joker. It may be a simple tale about the never ending Batman/Joker game it pushes the intelligent and terrifying extremes with an added tragic Joker origin to good measures. It may be controversial to many, but The Joker’s true side is realized in this film and by some can be enjoyed, but for others, this is a more of a learning experience about the man they call the “Clown Prince of Crime”.
‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ is now available on Blu-Ray/DVD