Batman: The Killing Joke
A little background before we get too far into this review. "The Killing Joke" was a graphic novel written by the legendary Alan Moore. It was a story where Batman visits Joker at Arkham Asylum, just to figure out that The Joker has escaped. Turns out Joker has specific plans for Commissioner Gordon and Batman. He wants to prove that anybody can go insane. That means crippling Gordon's daughter Barbara aka Batgirl, undressing her, taking pictures of her bloody and naked body and showing them to a captured Gordon to the form of psychological abuse. All the while we learn the origin of the Joker, even though we can never really trust the story to be his true origin. The story has been heavily controversial over its portrayal and treatment of BarbaraGordon. But its still as well-written as anything Moore has ever done, and its a waking nightmare of a story. Its no wonder Heath Ledger read it in order to prepare to play the character in 2008.
This is something I would have never expected to be seen in movie form, especially an animated direct-to-video movie made by DC Animation. But hey, since the animation DC world has made much better movies than their big budget mainstream department, I guess I can't be that surprised. Its clear with this animated film's R-rating that the animation department of DC is much more willing to take chances on great material. "The Killing Joke" is a raw story, and is as jetblack a story that Batman has ever been involved in. When I heard Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who voiced Batman and The Joker respectively several times in their careers, were returning to lend their voices once again, it felt like a match made in heaven. As if I wasn't really alive.
I guess I'll have to keep dreaming, because I don't really know what to think of the film version of "Batman: The Killing Joke." Knowing how awesome DC animation is year after year after year after year, I am flabbergasted that they fumbled with adapting "The Killing Joke." This was supposed to be a slam dunk. Oh sure, Conroy and Hamill bring their A-games, but that was to be expected. The last forty-five minutes are basically a frame-by-frame adaptation of the comic book. With picture-perfect animation on display. If there is a great forty-five minutes, then what's the problem?
"The Killing Joke" is a fairly short graphic novel, and I figured there would be some filler material to make it a longer movie. The first twenty-minutes is an introductory story of how Batgirl works with Batman and a particular job that forces Barbara to hang up her cowl. It follows their adventure of catching an up-and-coming gangster and how Barbra becomes obsessed with the case. Batman warns her to back-off, but she can't. The perpetrator is calling her out specifically, so she feels the need to find him and bring him to justice, despite Batman's warnings.
This leads to a sex scene between Batgirl and Batman.
Yeah, you read that right Batgirl and Batman are banging. Of all the moves in recent movies where fans say Batman wouldn't do this, or Batman wouldn't do that. Can we honestly believe that Batman would bang Batgirl, Gordon's daughter?
The thing I hated the most was that it didn't have any relevancy to the rest of the movie. It feels like a weird, out-of-place, mini-movie in front of "The Killing Joke," literally detached from the rest of the movie. This case doesn't come into play later in the movie, its never discussed or used to bring more tension to the last forty-five minutes. Its just kind of...there. This is a phony ploy to justify why Batman goes after The Joker, its something I'd expect from a Hollywood studio. Not a separate studio that has been known for being ambitious. No, I can see Batman and Batgirl shagging, then Batman not talking to her as if he sees it as a mistake. Especially when the prologue doesn't intersect into the greater Killing Joke story.
Maybe I am just too big of a Batman fan in order to give myself over to this. You may think I didn't see this movie on its own terms. But I think I did, and I saw two different movies in one film. One was about Batman, the other was not. All the exciting stars, crystal animation, and a wonderful adaptation of one of the better Batman stories are not enough to justify that horrid prologue.
FINAL GRADE: C