Batman: The Killing Joke
WARNING: The Killing Joke is not a typical Batman story and is not for the faint of heart. Because it deals with some pretty heavy issues, the mature rating actually makes sense for this story. The original story was released in 1988 and was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. Twenty-six years later it gets its own movie.
Because the comic itself is pretty short, the writers of the animated movie needed to add more content: Enter Batgirl. The film starts off from Batgirl’s perspective and delves into her relationship with Batman. There’s more to it than just punching bad guy and solving crimes. There’s some real jealousy and frustration about her desires and about her being rejected by Batman. It successfully humanizes her and gets you feeling for the character—a laudable accomplishment for any movie.
On to the main attraction: The Killing Joke. After I finished the film, I went back and read the graphic novel again. With both fresh in my mind, I was really impressed on how close the film tracked its source material.
Dialogue is word for word in most parts. Some dialogue was added for the wordless panels in the book but does not feel cumbersome or pointless. Batman does some more ass kickery in the movie and as a fan of schadenfreude I enjoyed it. Plus, when Batman is on the big screen, he just needs to hit bad guys occasionally. It’s the way the world works.
The biggest surprise was, wait for it. . . . a musical number?! Yes! The diddy The Joker sings in the book is wonderfully brought to life and as messed up as what Commissioner Gordon was experiencing at the time, it was entertaining.
The voice cast was wonderful as always. Kevin Conroy voiced Batman as he should because he basically is Batman at this point. Mark Hamill once again voiced The Joker. Impressively, Hamill succeeded in humanizing The Joker during the very few times we’re allowed to see him as fairly normal. I won’t give spoilers on how The Joker is normalized because that would ruin a big part of the story. Tara Strong voices Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and I’m becoming a big fan of hers and you should too. She voices Harley Quinn on a number of occasions and is the fantastic voice behind Tiny Tina of Borderlands fame.
All-in-all this is a great adaptation of the comic that manages to hit hard where intended. If you’ve read the story, you should definitely check this out. If you haven’t, you’ve been warned twice now. It’s not a run-of-the-mill Batman beat’em up story. Nor is it a nonsensical and silly, yet deadly plot by The Joker to poison Gotham for the umpteenth time. It’s a brutal story that pulls no punches—but as an iconic story of The Joker, it is worth checking out.