I decided to review the latest DC animated film called Batman: The Killing Joke. For those who aren’t familiar with the comic it was a one-shot story that was released in 1988. It is a darker tone story than most of the comics usually released by DC Comics and it is a quite interesting story since it looks further into the Joker’s back-story.
The story begins in a typical night in Gotham City. Batgirl is scouting the city and makes her way towards the GCPD where see witnesses Batman talking to her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon. Batman calls her via com-link and mentions that a robbery was well under way. Batman and Batgirl makes their way to the scene and manages to secure an armored car that was hidden in the back of the robber’s truck. Although they were able to stop the robbers Batgirl starts to contemplate whether Batman really considered her a part of the team. One of the main robbers named Paris Franz starts to having a liking to Batgirl, which he used to play with her emotions.
Paris Franz manages to contact her via a message; however Batgirl doesn’t take the situation seriously. Batman becomes concerned about this and tells Batgirl to stay away from Franz since it would become a liability. Ignoring his command, Batgirl decides to find Franz only to find the body of Sal Maroni, Franz’s uncle. Batman becoming more concerned about Batgirl decides that she was to stay away from the case at all costs. Feeling frustrated, she fights Batman only to throw him off guard by kissing him and eventually having sex with him.
The following night she tries to apologize to Batman, however their conversation gets cut short when he gets ambushed by Franz and his men. Realizing he was in trouble, Batgirl quickly runs to his aid leading to a one on one fight with Franz himself. She beats him up near to his death where she realizes that Batman was right and decides to give up the cape and cowl. A little while later, Harvey Bullock calls Batman to investigate an aftermath of a murder at Arkham Asylum. Batman realizes that it might have been the work of the Joker and asks for Commissioner Gordon, so that they could investigate the case further.
Batman and Commissioner Gordon make their way to the cell holding the Joker where he tries to ask him for answers. Seeing as he refused to talk Batman grabs him only to find out that an imposter was playing as the Joker. A flashback starts, revealing a closer look at the Joker’s past life and discovers that he was married to his wife, Jeannie. The Joker is also revealed to have once been a comedian with a very low income. Seeing as he has no choice, he decides to work with two criminals in order to make a quick heist to support his family. The two ask for his help since he knew around the chemical plant tell him to dress up in a disguise and pose himself as the “Red Hood” to frame him. He soon discovers that his wife dies in an electrical accident and in his grief tries to back out from the plan. The two convince him to continue working with them and they make their way to the chemical plant.
At the plant they end up getting attacked by security guards leading to Batman entering the scene. Frightened, the Joker accidentally misses a step causing him to fall into a vat of chemical liquid. Going the through the pipes he eventually makes his way outside the chemical plant revealing that incident turned him into the maniacal Joker. Back to the present day Batman soon discovers that Barbara was critically injured leading to her being permanently paralyzed from the waist down and Jim Gordon being captured. Batman makes his way to the carnival where he finds Commissioner Gordon locked in a cage. Batman fights off against the Joker’s henchmen one by one and makes his way to a room that shows a faithful recreation of the Joker’s past life, but upside down. After the confrontation, Batman offers a chance for rehabilitation, but the Joker explains it was too late for that. The Joker continues and tells Batman a joke and the end they both laugh it off with the scene fading to black. The post credits show Barbara in a wheelchair leading into a secret room with computers. The main computer turns on showing the logo of Oracle and the film ends.
In concept, I think it was a great idea that Warner Brothers decided to make an animated film based on a famous comic title. However, the execution could have used more work due to the addition of an all new original prologue that attempts to focus more on Batgirl, and establish an intimate relationship between Batgirl and Batman. The movie’s sex scene is already infamous, and it is full of controversy for fans. Now, while the action alone doesn’t really annoy me for the sake of it happening, it’s what lead into how it happened that concerns me more. It is well known by fans that Batman and Batgirl’s relationship has been thought to be an intimate one or has been one in other stories/ incarnations, but with this scene it felt simply more as a ‘WOW’ factor or as more padding to the R-Rating, even if there was no nudity. In retrospect, in my opinion it seemed a bit out of left field that Barbara has sex with Batman especially due to the is an adequate age difference between her and Bruce; it is understandable that Batgirl was upset for being sidelined although I still don’t think the sex scene was called, for regardless.
I did feel really bad to what happened to Jim Gordon in this movie/ comic and I also felt sorry for Batgirl as well. The imaginary during the carnival scene with Jim Gordon was really well done and it clearly shows how insane the Joker could get to just to entertain himself. The facial expressions of the Joker throughout the entire scene were excellent, and it did well to show how psychologically damaged he has become over the years. Speaking of imaginary, a similar effect can be seen during the hospital scene; the look on Barbara’s face was intense and it clearly showed how messed up she got after the incident with the Joker.
Outside of the prologue, I thought the film was pretty good at least being comic accurate. Many of the important scenes were still intact and it was interesting to see that even the song was taken straight out of the comic. I think what was the most surprising part is that the music number from the comic was directly adapted into the film as well, which I thought was amazing. Looking at the back-story of the Joker it was quite sad to see how much he had fallen due to several unfortunate circumstances, and it makes it much more tragic how it lead to him becoming the Joker. What was really amazing is that Warner Brothers got Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to reprise their roles for this film’s interpretation of Batman and the Joker respectively, especially when the actors were pushing for these roles. I thought they were excellent in reprising their roles and it’s always awesome to see/hear them as these iconic characters even with it having been several years since Batman the Animated Series.
The movie did have a lot of hit and misses, but at least it excelled in the best aspects of the comic. It is understandable that Warner Brothers decided to add a whole new segment to the film adaption since the comic is pretty short; however I really wished they managed it much better. The movie may not be in my opinion the best film in general, although I do give credit for at least doing a good job transitioning it from book to screen. For those who want to see a darker take of Batman than I recommend this film, although just don’t expect it to be one of the best Batman films ever made.