Directed by: Sam Liu
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong
Released: July 25, 2016
Runtime: 76 mins
Review: SPOILER FREE
Batman: The Killing Joke is based off of the graphic novel of the same name. The graphic novel is written by Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), illustrated by Brian Bolland, and released by DC Comics in March of 1988. Not until 28 years later would the animated adaption be released.
Recently I read the comic book (I really can’t call it a graphic novel since it is so short) and was somewhat disappointed. The comic was much shorter than I was expecting and told what I feel is an incomplete story. I say this because it works more as an epilogue to the entire Batman series which capstones the Joker’s and Batmans’ relationship. I personally felt the story should have been fleshed out more if a complete story was going to be told. I understand the comic is highly regarded by many and it’s Tim Burton’s favorite Batman comic and it actually inspired him while making his blockbuster 1989 film Batman. Personally, I felt somewhat slighted since the comic had been greatly built up for me and it came to an abrupt end all to soon for me.
Does the animated adaption assuage my disappointment? The answer is yes, it does. In order to adapt this film for home media and not to simply relegate it to a 30 minute cartoon segment, the creative team had to add to the story and flesh it out. There is a 30 or so minute Batgirl focused opening. I have heard some are not too enthused over this addition, but personally I enjoyed it. Batgirl has never been seen much on the small or big screen and when she has it’s been an inconsequential performance. Incorporating Batgirl into the larger story and in all honesty giving her a mini-movie really worked for me. I felt the viewer was able to explore Batgirl much deeper than ever before, see her in action, and workout that potential sexual tension she holds with Batman. I felt it was very nicely played and helps you feel for her when tragedy befalls her later on in the story. I want to give props to the creative team behind this for injecting emotion into the Batgirl segment since normally emotionality is lacking in DC animated films.
Of course once the Batgirl segment is over the rest of the film continues in line with the graphic novel. On a quick side note I don’t really like calling it the “Batgirl segement” and I don’t feel other reviewers should have described it that way since it does factor into the rest of the movie. A reviewer I respect, Chris Stuckmann, felt the “Batgirl segment” had nothing to add to the film. I disagree with his statement because it does greatly factor into Batman’s emotions and growing motives with the Joker’s destruction of the Gordon family.
Only minor additions were added to the animated film. There is a scene in the Batcave with some nice easter eggs and homages to Caesar Romero’s Joker to Heath Ledger’s. Also certain gaps are filled in that the comic leaves out. Batman also has a newly added fighting sequence with the Joker’s circus freaks that was glad to see, considering I felt the comic was light on action. For an animated film that runs an hour and 16 minutes with credits it sure does not feel that short. I was pleased with the runtime and it felt like a whole contained story.
I was thrilled when I heard Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were to return for this film and they did not disappoint. Conroy is the iconic Batman in my mind and it absolutely delivers, though I will say his performance didn’t quite have the gravitas it did 20 years ago as it did in Batman: The Animated Series. I feel the same way about Hamill. Is voice is much heavier and not as spry but he still delivers the performance we all wanted to see. If he sticks to his statement this will be the last time we will see [hear] Hamill as the Joker. And what a way to go out! [Let’s hope this isn’t Conroy’s last time though!]
Now I’ll address the elephant in the room. This is the first Batman film EVER to receive an R rating. Does it deserve it? Yes it does. With the sexual innuendo, provocative scenes, swearing, bloody violence, and over all very disturbing nature, this film deserve the R rating. I read a well written review from the Vengaza Media Gazette and Arnie felt the film did not deserve the R rating. I agree with him it is most likely done for a publicity stunt, but I can absolutely see why the MPAA gave this animated film an adults only rating. Parents, please don’t let your kids watch this movie.
Overall, Batman: The Killing Joke is a solid Batman, Batgirl, and Joker film. The three characters are given equal attention so the audience can identify with each and understand their motives. The Joker’s origin felt slightly unnecessary and uneventful and yes, elongated but I digress. It’s incorporated nicely into the end of the film and does pay off. I really did enjoy Batgirl’s role and it’s left me wanting a solo Batgirl film. I can’t really put it into words but I really warmed to her.
I’m giving Batman: The Killing Joke 7 stars out of 10. This is a High Recommend for any Batman fan, but only a Slight Recommend for those not inclined to the caped crusader or his demented counterpart.