Review: ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’

Hey folks! Today I’m here to give you all a review of the brand new DC animated film Batman: The Killing Joke, which is based on Alan Moore’s bestselling graphic novel of the same name, which debuted in 1988. I actually haven’t read it myself yet, so this review will be coming from someone on the other side of the spectrum.

Batman: The Killing Joke is essentially split into two parts. The first part, which I hear is absent from the graphic novel, follows Batgirl (voiced by Tara Strong) and is basically a setup to the second half of the film where the Joker (Mark Hamill) enters the picture and it basically becomes his movie. Obviously, with this being a Batman story, the Caped Crusader is in there too as he and Batgirl have, well, let’s just say an interesting relationship here. There’s something that happens between the two of them in this film (exclusive to this movie) that has angered fans of the graphic novel (and Batman fans in general), and you’re either going to be okay with it, or you’re going to hate it. Personally, I was okay with it, but it’s definitely something that will rile up some fans.

I think some that haven’t read the graphic novel will be wondering when the hell does the Joker make an appearance. He doesn’t enter the story until the movie’s nearly halfway over already, which could test the patience of those that expected basically the entire movie to center around him. The Batgirl stuff at the beginning is still relevant to the second half though. Very much so. When the Clown Prince of Crime finally does show up though, like I said, it basically becomes his movie.

In The Killing Joke (which is very hard not to spoil by the way), we’re given Joker’s backstory that weaves its way in and out of the central plot where he attempts to unleash psychological hell on Batman. Giving away the character’s origin doesn’t bother me (I’ve seen Tim Burton’s Batman after all), but at the same time, I think the mysteries behind his identity are more effective and unsettling, which was the approach Christopher Nolan went with in The Dark Knight, and that lack of knowing exactly who was behind that makeup made the character all the more fascinating. However, it is to my understanding that the graphic novel explored the character’s backstory as well. And considering it plays a part in The Killing Joke‘s climax (and Joker’s motives), I can understand why it’s featured here. It all comes full circle in the end.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, this movie is rated R. It’s not necessarily a “hard R” per say though (it actually leans closer to the “soft R” category), but it does have a couple of effectively disturbing moments as well as some bloody action scenes. Along with that, some of the Joker’s henchmen are creepy and even the clown himself is a bit scary looking with a few effective lighting techniques (such as the one below) sending chills down my spine.

The film’s animation has faced some criticism with some finding it inconsistent. Sometimes, it looks great, other times it looks choppy. I’m in this boat as well. Some of it looks like it’s straight out of the panels of the graphic novel, while some of it just feels off. It’s weird. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll have a good taste of what I’m talking about. Even when the animation looked like it could use some more work, I was still invested in the story taking place. The animation wasn’t bad enough to take me out of the movie entirely, so that’s good at least.

Perhaps this movie’s biggest asset is its returning voice cast. Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong once again prove how perfect they are for these characters, while Ray Wise (who voiced Perry White in Superman Doomsday) does a good job as Commissioner Gordon. l still can’t believe the same man that plays Luke Skywalker is the voice behind this Joker. Before my screening Monday night, there was a short documentary where Hamill discussed what lead him to be the voice behind one of DC’s most iconic villains. It was pretty interesting, and very neat to see how excited he was to get the chance to voice the character again.

So, being someone that hasn’t read the original material, I can say that I loved Batman: The Killing Joke. I know it’s being met with “eh” reviews (perhaps from people that have read it), but I thought it was quite good. The animation could’ve been more consistent and there were a couple of times where the plot felt a tad rushed, but aside from that, I was very satisfied. The vocal performances are wonderful, the story’s bold and engaging, and the movie flies by (being only 72 minutes or not). It was even surprisingly funny at times!

4 out of 5 stars

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