Hello interweb, Nate here! So a while back I reviewed the animated movie Batman: The Killing Joke. Now I just got done watching the recent animated movie Batman and Harley Quinn and I was in the process of writing up a review of the film. I made a reference to this review and when I went to link my Batman and Harley Quinn review to this one I realized that this review reverted back into a draft. I’m not quite sure why this is or what happened but I decided to republish it with as few edits as possible. This is, word-for-word, my original review of the animated movie. I guess you could consider this a “Lost episode” if you want. Anyways, this is a spoiler warning review and enjoy! Stay tuned for my review of the Batman and Harley Quinn animated movie!
Movie Title: Batman: The Killing Joke
Produced by: DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Director: Sam Liu
Producer: Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and Sam Register
Running Time: 1 hr 17 min
So before I should get into the review I should probably give you guys some background on my history with The Killing Joke graphic novel. Now The Killing Joke was actually one of the first Batman comics I ever read and that’s because it was in the library of the school my church went to. Because I was new to comics at the time I really didn’t know anything about The Killing Joke besides the fact that the guy who wrote Watchmen wrote it and it’s praised as on of the best Joker stories as well as give us a plausible origin to the Joker. Now when I first read The Killing Joke, I read up until the point where Commissioner Gordon is naked and is forced to see pictures of his shot daughter. I was a lot more squeamish at the time so when I got to that point I put the book down and decided that the book was actually one of the worst Batman/Joker stories and was nothing but shock for the sake of shock. A year or two later I was a bit more mature and I was into more mature stories so when I got another chance to read the The Killing Joke and while I still don’t see it as the best Joker story I’ve ever read, it’s definitely a lot better than I originally gave it credit for. I still have a lot of problems with the original graphic novel (and, by extension, parts of this movie) but I’m able to see why people love it so much.
So if you’ve read the original Killing Joke then you already know most of the story. However there’s really actually two stories in this adaptation. The original Killing Joke is actually a rather short read so making it into an animated film would’ve only been 45 min. So instead of just making this a Killing Joke adaptation, they decide to throw a half hour Batgirl episode into the beginning of the movie. The episode consists of Batgirl being manipulated by a villain named Paris Franz who has an obsession with her. While this is going on, Batgirl is trying to figure out her relationship with Batman and we see her talking her gay friend (no seriously) about this “guy” she’s hanging out with. And at one point Batgirl and Batman has sex. So yeah, the whole Batgirl episode is HORRIBLY written and quite controversial mainly because of the sex scene. Now the relationship between Batgirl and Batman has always been similar to a father/daughter relationship so the idea that the two would do that is rather disgusting to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against sex in movies (when done correctly of course, don’t throw it in if it’s not necessary) and especially in an R-rated picture, but having BATGIRL and BATMAN do it together? Ew sorry no!!!
Now the main reason they made this addition is to add length to this rather short film and give Batgirl some more character considering that the only thing Batgirl really did in the original story is get shot. Now because of how horribly the episode was written I feel like there are two options which would’ve been so much better. Option one is to simply have a 45 minute movie considering that I feel like a really good short movie would be so much better than a crappy long movie. I mean I’ve seen some brilliantly done short films so it’s not like that wouldn’t be possible. Hell, a shorter movie would mean you can spend more money on better animation rather than an added bit to the flick. The second option is to feature an episode of Batman: The Animated Movie at the beginning. Think about it, similar cast with Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman, both were made by Bruce Timm, and it would honor past projects while giving light to new stories. I would’ve loved to see them play an episode of the animated series rather than this crap. Now I don’t have any specific episodes in mind that they could do but if there’s an episode featuring Batgirl or Joker (or both) then they could play that episode ahead of it.
So what about the actual Killing Joke portion of this adaptation? Well it’s way better than the Batgirl episode and the tone shifts dramatically when it starts so it’s super easy to tell when the Batgirl episode ends and the Killing Joke begins. I would go over the story but you already know it. Batman tries to give Joker one last chance to redeem himself, Joker escapes Arkham and shoots Barbra before kidnapping Commissioner Gordon, then it ends with Batman fighting Joker and Joker’s last joke.
Now the main problem I had with the original that I still have with the adaptation is the message. Joker’s entire message is that all someone needs is one bad day to go crazy like the Joker. So Joker tries to prove this by messing with Gordon’s head but it really doesn’t go anywhere. Gordon is relatively ok by the end of the story so the story is just kinda pointless. I mean is the actual message that you can overcome that one bad day? I never understood this so am I just not getting the point?
So if I don’t get the actual point to the story then why do I like it in the first place? Well I have to say it’s because of the characters. I like that this story shows that Batman genuinely tried to give Joker one last chance to redeem himself because that’s why Batman doesn’t kill any of his villains (something that the DCEU Batman doesn’t seem to get). Batman genuinely want to see his villains get better and to live a normal life so he sends them to Akrham in hopes that they can get better while keeping the innocents of Gotham safe. Now that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t air on the side of caution whenever a villain of his does try to redeem themselves. Like in the season 1 episode of Batman: The Animated Series “Birds of a Feather” where Penguin attempts to redeem himself; Batman still watched over him to make sure he stays in line (which of course he doesn’t) even though he’s still willing to give Penguin a second chance.
Then there’s Joker. Now there’s three versions of the Joker you can use: the Golden Age mobster Joker, the Silver Age prankster Joker, and the Modern Age psychopathic Joker. Now the psychopath has always been my favorite and it’s mainly because he’s the biggest threat and the one that pushes Batman the most. There’s been several times where Batman questions himself on whether or not he should end the Joker simply because of how many lives he indirectly took by letting him live. Joker has the highest body count in the DC universe by a long shot so there’s that constant questioning that the Joker cause in Batman. This is brilliantly shown in The Killing Joke where you can see his journey into madness and how you get to see his view of the world and how literally everything is a joke. Now I personally don’t like the idea of Joker having any origin or backstory simply because I don’t want to sympathies with him so I do appreciate that one line where he tells us that he’s constantly remembering his origin differently every time he thinks about it and if he has a backstory than he prefers it to be multiple choice. It just shows that literally the only thing consistent about the Joker is just how insane he is.
Now when anybody hears a story they want different things out of it than someone else. For some people they prefer stories with lots of twists and turns and surprises, some people just simply want action in their story, and some people want to see some message from a story that leaves them differently then when it met them. Me personally the number one thing I always want out of a story is good characters that I can identify with. That’s mainly why I personally really like the Killing Joke nowadays. No I don’t really understand the message behind it but I still get to see what I love out of Joker and Batman and that’s all that really matters to me.
Now usually in these reviews I tell you guys the story and my thoughts on the story, then I talk about the action, followed by any other thoughts I had about the film itself (tone, animation, CGI, etc) before ending by talking about the characters. But really I think I’ve already said all I need to about Joker and Batman in this while I went over the story so I think I’m just going to touch in Barbra before I touch on some other thoughts I had while watching this.
Now out of all the characters in the original story – and I know this will sound very weird – but I feel like Barbra Gordon got the most out of the story then all the other characters. Yes yes I know that the only thing she did was get shot and yes I know that a lot of people really hate this story for it’s mistreatment of the only female character in it (which I always found dumb), but hear me out! It’s mainly because of this story that Batgirl became Oracle in the first place and I always loved the idea that Barbra is so badass that even when she became paralyzed she still did her part to fight crime in Gotham. Now I already went over how bad her mini episode was in this so I’m not gonna keep beating that dead horse, but still it was pretty bad. I liked that they tried to give Barbra more to do in this but it just failed terribly.
The animation in this is similar to the other DC animated movies but there were times where it felt kinda choppy to me. I think there were moments where the budget couldn’t allow for smoother animation so it came off as weird editing. The other problem I had with the movie was that the coloring was way off from the original graphic novel. Now when the animation tried to mimic the original panels it looked awesome and I loved it. However there were moments where I compared it to the original art work and the original art (which was gorgeously done by the way) had brighter colors and was nicer to look at then the coloring choices here.
Now this film is R-rated which I find rather weird because honestly I found myself more comfortable watching this than Suicide Squad which was PG-13. I mean with the exception of that horrible scene between Batman and Batgirl, there really wasn’t as much sex in here as there was in Suicide Squad. What I also found weird is the film kept censoring it’s swearing. Like people would say “That’s BS” or “Where the F is that guy” and it kinda took my out of it because if this film was R rated than why are they holding back on the language so much? In fact why was this film rated R anyways? I’ve seen several DC animated movies worse than this one.
Now at the end of these reviews I’ve been giving you guys an overall opinion on the movie itself and then ending with a score on a 1-5 rating system. However the more I’ve been using that system of rating the less I’ve really been liking it since my ratings have been all over the place and when comparing certain films I’ve reviewed and comparing what I rated them I just felt like something was off. So instead what I’m gonna do at the end of these reviews is just say whether or not I like the film and if I recommend seeing it.
With that said I absolutely hated the first half hour of this movie but once the half hour was over and we got to the actual Killing Joke portion I really enjoyed it. I honestly kinda hope that the DVD release will have the option to skip straight to the actual Killing Joke portion rather than wasting our time with the crap they gave us at the beginning. So I would recommend seeing this film to anybody who is a fan of the original Killing Joke graphic novel and if you’re a Batman fan in general. However I would also recommend you skip over the first half an hour of the film to see the adaptation for what it should’ve been and then if you want you can see the additionally added bits after your first viewing. Thanks for reading and take care!