Hey gang, Valkor here. The folks at DC and WB Home have been killing it lately with their animated adaptations of comic book hits; films such as “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse”, “Justice League: War”, and even “Batman: Year One”, shows that they’re able to present these titles to a newer audience, broader audience. The next film out of the pipeline is one that I’ve been anticipating since it was first announced – “Batman: The Killing Joke”, which brings back the dynamic duo of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker, in one of the more prolific, darkest tales in the Dark Knight’s catalog. And it's definitely one of my favorite reads of all time. So, does the animated version do the book justice? Let’s find out!
“The Killing Joke” breaks down into two parts; the first puts the focus on Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (Tara Strong), as she attempts to make some kind of sense in her relationship with Batman, which is rising to a boil. Added to the mix is a mob guy by the name of Paris France (Maury Sterling), who has something of an infatuation with Batgirl, pushing her buttons each time they have a run-in. Things become even more complicated for Barbara when she and Batman have spontaneous sex as well as her beating Paris to a bloody mess. It ends with Barbara giving up the mask because she can't come to terms with her relationship with Bruce. This left me kind of confused because I don’t remember any of this in the book… and it wasn’t. I get it, its filler. But it’s filler that obviously feels tacked on.
Now, the second half of the film – now that’s what I came to see! This is where the comic comes to animated life and if you've read the book, you’ll see that just about nothing was left on the cutting room floor. The second half reflects on The Joker having escaped his Arkham cell and targeting the Gordon family. He inflicts serious damage to Barbara that will change not only her future but her role within the Bat-family. The Joker takes Commissioner Gordon prisoner in an attempt to break his will. When Batman arrives on the scene, he and The Joker face off for what may or may not be their final confrontation. Running parallel with this story, we also get to see The Joker’s origins; and whether that’s canon or not, remains to be seen, but it is interesting to see his beginnings.
I recall when “Batman: Year One” was released, I had the opportunity to sit in on a round chair press interview with Bruce Timm, where he stated that they not only got everything from the book into the film, they also added in some new material just to reach their run time. And after viewing "Year One", with those new additions, which sit towards the end of the film, it felt like it always belonged there. However, I’m gonna jump the gun and state the opening to “The Killing Joke” felt way off and it really served no purpose.
If you really want to enjoy “The Killing Joke”, simply skip past the first 30 minutes of the film to get right to the meat, because that’s where you want to be. Forget all the Barbara Gordon nonsense because that stuff is just filler and doesn’t really add anything to the main event. Actually, the film feels kind of off because of it. But once “The Killing Joke” bits kick in, it becomes a dark, intense and an emotional ride. And it’s from that point on I’d say the film adapts the comic to near perfection. There were some liberties taken, especially with the ending, but I have to say Sam Liu and company did a pretty decent job of adapting the comic. I didn’t think it was possible to translate this particular comic to any other medium, but I’m glad things turned out as well as they did. And do I really need to talk about how awesome Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are in their roles of Batman and The Joker? They are the definitive voice actors for their characters and thus far, no one has been able to dethrone them. Maybe one day, but not now. The animation isn’t the greatest, but it does well to match that of the comic perfectly. The look of The Joker will haunt you long after the film has finished. “The Killing Joke” has a runtime of 77 minutes and to be honest, I would have been OK with a 45-minute cut, simply because it’s that section of the film that shines.
Need I go on about the film’s first thirty minutes? When it started, I thought I was watching something totally different. And when “The Killing Joke” started, I was a bit confused; so we’re just gonna drop the whole Paris France bit? Or the sexual tension between Bruce and Barbara? The first 30 minutes could have been used for an entirely new film and it would have been amazing! But tacking it on to the beginning of “The Killing Joke” is a total fail!
That opening aside, “Batman: The Killing Joke” is definitely worth checking out because you get to see one of Batman’s darkest tales come to life. Plus having two of the best voice actors reprising their roles definitely make this pill easier to swallow. And out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving “Batman: The Killing Joke” 3 stars.