BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE:
A SICK, TWISTED, ROLLERCOASTER RIDE WITH ONE MESSED UP CLOWN!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A+ (4 stars)
WARNER BROS. ANIMATION
The Joker laughing something diabolical in Batman: The Killing Joke
Wow, just wow, never thought I’d start a movie review like that, but the animated feature adaptation of Alan Moore’s beloved Batman comic book, The Killing Joke just blew me away and sent me to a very uncomfortable area…but I hold no regrets. Batman: The Killing Joke is, believe it or not, my all-time favorite Batman story, for several different reasons, it’s dark (obviously) but very mature and harsh, it dives deep into the origin story of one of the greatest villains of all time, The Joker, and it was one of the inspirations for Jack Nicholson’s Joker performance in Tim Burton’s Batman and Heath Ledger’s performance from The Dark Knight.
I first read the comic shortly after seeing The Dark Knight in theaters and once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down, I just wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters and how it was going to end. In my opinion, that’s the sign of a great story and no matter how the story is shown whether through writing and drawing in a comic or in animated movie format, it’s a story that stays with you.
I already loved the Joker as a character after seeing Nicholson and Ledger’s performances from Batman and The Dark Knight as well as Cesar Romero’s performance from the 1960s Adam West TV series, and of course Mark Hamill’s stunning and disturbing voice performance from Batman: The Animated Series and several films and video games. But now the story made me love him even more but also feel sorry for him once you know about his backstory, one of my only real issues with Nicholson’s Joker was the depiction of his backstory, if they did it more like in The Killing Joke you’d probably be fine, and really, once he becomes the Joker in the movie I really don’t care that much anymore.
So now, Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics finally gives us an animated movie adaptation of The Killing Joke with Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill (Star Wars), and Tara Strong (The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly OddParents, Teen Titans) reprising their roles from Batman: The Animated Series as Batman, The Joker, and Batgirl. Unlike the other Batman animated features which were geared more towards younger viewers or tweens, this movie marks the first time a Batman animated movie is given an R-rating and while I can’t say it’s as heavy of a rating as other comic book movie adaptations like Watchmen or Deadpool, it’s definitely something not to show your little kids, whether they’re Bat-Fans or not.
The movie has ghastly images, blood, disturbing scenes, and plenty of scary Joker laughs, there’s even some brief moments involving nudity and sex, but nothing graphic. Really, the R-rating was probably there to keep kids from watching it, because when you get down to it, it’s about as intense as movies like Princess Mononoke or the Robert Zemeckis Beowulf movie, both of which were rated PG-13 upon release.
R-rated or not, The Killing Joke is a well-executed depiction of the original story, the design and animation, voice acting, and situations all feel like a more mature version of Batman: The Animated Series and the animation and artistry feels like a comic book come to life in the most beautiful yet disturbing ways possible. The funny thing is I’m watching this movie after seeing Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice back in March and I can say I cared about the characters in this A LOT more than the ones in Batman v. Superman, and they’re just drawings but it’s the way they’re portrayed and developed that makes you feel for them when something bad happens.
The Joker has escaped Arkham Asylum and is causing anarchy in Gotham City, shooting Batgirl and causing her to never be able to walk again, kidnap Commissioner Gordon and force him to experience all the bad things that have happened in Gotham, and also brutally killing an amusement park owner and putting Joker makeup on the corpse. Batman is called in to investigate the crime as we then learn about the Joker’s past long before the chemical accident that turned him into the psychotic, laughing, lunatic he is today (Believe me if I was in that situation, I’d be going mad too, but I digress!), so it’s a battle between Batman and the Joker, all leading to a shocking finale.
Overall, Batman: The Killing Joke delivers fan-service through the roof, I probably could have brought my comic with me and read along with the movie (But that’d be stupid!). I doubt it would get as wide an audience as something like the Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan Batman movies, or even the DC Extended Universe movies coming out, this movie is strictly for the fans and fans are sure to love it.
It was great hearing Conroy, Hamill, and Strong’s voices again as the characters we know and love them from, whenever I watch an animated Batman cartoon or movie, I always look forward to hearing their voices and show off their mad talent. Honestly when I first found out Mark Hamill did the Joker’s voice in Batman: The Animated Series, it blew my mind, because at the time the first thing I would incorporate with him was Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars movies, now I think of both Luke and Joker whenever I hear his name.
A small issue I had with the movie is the beginning is a little awkward, more specifically with Batman and Batgirl, but once the second half gets going, it gets really good and it ends on an odd note and you really don’t know how to feel in the end. I was stunned but very glad I saw it at the theatrical Fathom Event showing, and it’s a shame we don’t get theatrically released Batman animated movies anymore after the poor box-office performance of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, I think if you started doing wide releases for these today, more people would come because Mask of the Phantasm did very well critically and more people are watching it at home.
If you missed it on the big-screen, grab a copy of it on Blu-Ray or DVD when it comes out, because I plan to watch it several more times, because All it takes is one bad day.