Review: Batman – The Killing Joke

A little late to the party here and honestly, it was just alright. Mark Hamill reminds us why we love his turn as Joker so much.

Batman and Batgirl become involved in the most diabolical trap The Joker has ever conceived after the Clown Prince breaks out from prison yet again.

Based off of Alan Moore’s grim, adult comic book of the same name written in 1988, The Killing Joke was the source of much hype amongst the comic book genre. An animated feature film given an R-rating, with returning voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (having worked together on the incredibly well received Batman: The Animated Series and 1993’s animated feature Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and sticking closely to the source material. Mark Hamill is something of a cult favourite, and yet he had stopped voicing The Joker he said: “unless they make The Killing Joke.”
A lot of people believed that in the wake of disappointing feature films,this would be the exception from DC Comics’ recent productions…

Unfortunately with the exception of a few really good, key scenes (which I assume are lifted straight from the comic’s panels) The Killing Joke was relatively lukewarm for me.

That’s right, I have not read the source material, and I could not avoid the criticism that fans piled onto it and be influenced by it. The Killing Joke is a reasonably short story, but in making this feature they added a good thirty minutes of early, establishing backstory for Batgirl and Batman. While not inherently a bad idea, since without it Batgirl becomes a one-note damsel of sorts, but the backstory they give doesn’t paint her in a terribly redeeming light either. It actually makes Batman a bit of a creeper at the same time!

There’s a literal stop-start as this first act ends and The Killing Joke begins, which coupled with the initial story being mostly irrelevant, it feels clunky.

However, once the second and third acts get going, and Conroy and Hamill get to interact once again, some really great character writing emerges.
We get an origin story for The Joker, and his persistence to make someone else feel the way he feels; his outlook on the world is almost tragic and almost sympathetic. Batman is older here, in fact they both are, the story delves into the two men having been at odds for years. Bruce is tired and reluctant, wondering if there’s ever any hope for this man, while seeing a bit of his own duality in the madman.

It certainly has its grim, mature moments; especially one sequence towards the end which leaves little to the imagination. But whether I am desensitised or not, I wasn’t overly shocked by any of it.

Honestly, I’d like to think society could have taken the hit with Batgirl being underdeveloped in trade off for a 45 minute special that was just The Killing Joke. That’s me being optimistic though, so if only they had made her a little deeper. It isn’t terrible what they’ve done, but it doesn’t seem to blend seamlessly.

However it has some great Batman and Joker sequences through the second and third acts, really great scenes and developments between the characters I would never have expected, intense stuff. Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are dynamite, Hamill truly transforms himself in this role and really sends chills up your spine at times. It is highly recommended for any fan.
I think the hype was simply too intense for this to live up to expectations, even for me!



One Comment Add yours

  1. wotsbooks says:

    The comic itself is slightly disturbing but brilliantly written and illustrated. However the trailer for this easily turned me away. To have released this so late in the day with such laggy animation seems a poor money grab.

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