Lexi: At long last, it’s finally here. After decades of fans begging for it, after years of teasing, after waiting and waiting and waiting, it all lined up. The Killing Joke as a feature-length animated film, adapted by Brian Azzarello (AKA the guy who invented Ledger Joker before Ledger Joker was a thing), and starring the greatest voice talents in all of comic-adapted animation… Kevin Conroy as Batman, and Mark Hamill as the Joker. It couldn’t get any better than this. We all saw the previews and the posters, shots and even whole scenes lifted straight from the comics — even an R rating! What on earth could be more beautiful? That is, of course, providing that the animated film ends up being everything it was hyped up to be. Brooke: On the other hand, not everyone has read the comic, e.g. myself. Yes, Hamill-Joker and Conroy-Batman made me– excited– to use family-friendly terminology. The trick here was to make an adaptation (Yes an adaptation. That’s not a bad word) that was close enough to keep the fans happy, yet accessible enough for new or unfamiliar fans. Sounds easy, but as we all know the comic book/comic film fandom can never agree on anything. Ever. It’s our credo. The best the studio can hope for is minimal damages. Having said all that, and coming from someone that was not hyped and had no prior expectations from the story itself, I still found some parts awkward or forced. Lexi: For instance, the 30-minute, completely-unrelated prologue that focuses completely on Barbara Gordon. And her boobs. This movie starts off by cheekily informing us that it knows what it’s doing. It understands that we came here for Killing Joke, and it’s aware that we’ll stay for it regardless. And we did. That said, I don’t really understand the point of this entire section. Maybe it’s there to make us feel more sympathetic towards Barbara for when the thing that happens to her inevitably happens? Maybe it’s to ensure that we actually know who Barbara is when Joker arrives to shoot her? Maybe it’s to showcase the brand new, offensively stereotypical gay best friend? No, I don’t think it’s any of those things. I think it’s because Azzarello thought the actual content of The Killing Joke would be too short for a feature-length film… and instead of adding to the bulk of the source material, he decided to tack on something else entirely. A 100% forgettable story about a random thug OH AND BATGIRL AND BATMAN FUCK. Brooke: The sex scene with Batman came out of nowhere, true. And if we’re being honest, Batman and Joker had better on-screen chemistry then Batman and Barbara. The entire intro with Batgirl was to force our sympathy, which was ultimately pointless when the movie left her behind completely. She was as stuffed into a refrigerator as any female character ever has been. I do understand she gets shot in the comic, and I would imagine it’s a bigger deal there. And that’s kinda the problem; it isn’t a huge deal. Even she seems kinda blasé about it. I understand why we got so much Batgirl time, and (mostly) she was a fair representation of the character, but it wasn’t enough. Where was she after she got hospitalized? We don’t know and the movie didn’t care. It was more interested in showing us Joker’s tragic backstory. And this is what I mean by adaptation. A lot of Joker’s backstory could have been cut or condensed. More of the movie could have– nay, should have been committed to Batman and Batgirl’s dynamic. Especially if there was a romance going on. Adaptation isn’t just adding to the runtime. It is also about cutting things that drag the movie. Lexi: A lot of the Joker’s backstory stuff was actually lifted directly from the comic, which is likely why they left it. I noticed that while a lot was added, approximately 0% was cut — every scene, every line, every shot that’s actually in Killing Joke is all left there, just bogged down with messy pacing and too much added content. On top of that, Hamill’s performance in the flashbacks was… bizarrely lackluster, which is something I never thought I’d ever hear myself say. I hear you on the Batgirl stuff, too — not only does she not seem all that impressed by getting paralyzed (in the comic she’s destroyed by it), but Batman doesn’t either. If all the beginning stuff was meant to build up a relationship — awkwardly romantic as it was — between Bruce and Babs, why would they completely ignore it when it came time for it to actually play its part in the main storyline? Batman goes to her bedside and is like “Ay gurl you doin’ aight” and she’s like “lol yeah daddy, by the way my actual dad is gone and probably dead” and that’s the end of it. It’s literally the last time we see Barbara until the end credits scene. Speaking of “seeing” Barbara, the infamous photo shoot is exactly as tame as it was in the comic. Add that to the fact that there’s no nudity, no gore, only mildly disturbing imagery, and nobody tosses out even a single F-bomb, and I find this film to be absolutely no stronger than a PG-13. Rumors of its R rating were… highly exaggerated. Brooke: I get they took a lot from the comic and I respect that. But at some point they got their ideas twisted because acts two and three are a far call from the opener. Not to mention why we had Barbara narrating anything. She was absent from most of the movie. It would make more sense to have Batman narrating. And maybe I’m just nostalgic for Batman: The Animated Series, but how much better would Joker’s story have been if it was narrated by him? Lexi: That would have been way better, to be honest. In the comic, much of it is narrated by Joker. Batman is a secondary character at best, and Batgirl is pretty much not in it. In this, it’s exactly the opposite. I also think you may have felt different about the flashback scenes if the movie had taken its proper time with the main content and used them sparingly, giving them the time they deserved. After they wasted a whole half hour with the prologue, the pacing on the actual movie was completely berserk. It felt rushed in general, and the flashbacks, in particular, were so rushed as to genuinely feel tacked-on. Brooke: However, this film is hardly without its merits. The animation was a thing of beauty, even if the animators probably had too much fun designing Batgirl. And even I recognized some of the iconic imagery from the comic I have never read because it’s been slapped on t-shirts and hats and so much fan art has been done. Clearly someone involved wanted to bring as much of the story experience as possible, and that itself is admirable. Another thing I can say is even though the movie was extremely tame, in spite of the hype, I don’t feel like it really pulled a punch, if that makes sense. It didn’t show Joker doing whatever he did to Barbara in the comic, but that just left the horror to my imagination. And the fans obviously knew what happened. So that could be taken for a clever compromise. And the ending, I’ll let you talk about it. I’ll just say it was probably my favorite part of the whole thing. If cartoon characters got Oscars, that would have been an Oscar moment. Lexi: Actually, no more is seen of what happens to Babs in the comic either — we see Joker undress her and start taking pictures, then we later see the pics on the ghost train, it’s pretty much exactly the same. I agree that the movie was tame, even in direct contrast to the comic, which lent a more visceral art style to the way the more disturbing carnival scenes played out. While I won’t say it pulled any punches, it made no effort whatsoever to make things any more horrific than they already were. You are, however, right about the art and animation itself. It’s clean and smooth, just complex enough to not have that “Timm” level of streamlining but nor was it too overly busy. It works well, and the character designs are done masterfully. Even the integration of 3D models into certain segments (like the car chases) worked really well and didn’t really break my immersion. You’re also right about the Oscars thing. Two moments of this film sharply stand out as doing great justice to the source material — Joker’s transformation after the Red Hood incident, which gave me legitimate chills over my entire body, and the ending. The ending is perhaps the only point in which this version improves on the original graphic novel; it flips from intense, to funny, to dark, to funny again, to a horrific combination of all three. It gives us a moment that the comic didn’t really hit. It gives us a moment where we really, truly see how close Batman could be to the Joker. And that’s chilling as fuck. Brooke: I guess I would just add that this is probably the best portrayal of Batman I have seen. This isn’t the man who prepares for everything, and has every-tool-ever stashed in his cape. This was a man pushed to his absolute edge. Because in the end, the only person that can beat Batman is Batman himself, and seeing that darkness inside he tries one last time to change things. He makes a deal with the devil if you will. And we have Joker as the yang to Batman’s yin, at his most human. It would have been so easy to ham this part up. To overplay it. To force the emotion. But that’s not what happens. We just get two people in a bad relationship that both have come to accept what is and what can’t be. It was a powerful scene. Lexi: Man, yaoi fangirls are gonna be having a field day with this one, too. Bruce and Joker are gayer for each other in this than Barbara’s bleached-blonde, purple-clad walking stereotype best friend. And that’s saying quite a lot. To overview somewhat, this movie is good — not great, but good. The animation is slick and beautiful, the voice acting is iconic, and the content is really nice. On the other hand, we have barbarically clumsy pacing, an extremely weak and overly lengthy intro, and a lot of dialogue that works better in a comic than it does in a film: Much of Moore’s dialogue in The Killing Joke was thick and chewy like month-old Jell-O, you had to take your time with it and mull it over to get the full impact. Hamill, despite expressing the sentiment well, goes through them a little too fast for them to genuinely sink in. In both hands, we have Barbara’s “90’s cartoon Rogue”-level butt. Hopefully. There are ups and downs, and part of me can’t help but feel that this isn’t the adaptation we deserved. It was certainly entertaining, but it was killed by its own hype before the opening credits rolled. Brooke, in the beginning you said this had to be “close enough to keep the fans happy, yet accessible enough for new or unfamiliar fans.” It’s definitely on shaky ground on the first front. What are your thoughts on the second? Brooke: I had no trouble following the plot, and even if I didn’t know the characters, I think I would have liked them. Knowing what I did know, the boggy bits would still drag, but for someone being introduced to Batman or Joker or even Batgirl, I think they could do worse. I think most people would raise eyebrows at the sex scene, but we’ve beat that horse. So overall, yeah. This was very accessible for new fans. Though it would be important to remember this is an adaptation, for reasons we have covered. Lexi: An adaptation that lifts every single scene from the comic wholecloth. Honestly I’m not sure what this wanted to be. Brooke: If I had to guess I would say that studio mandates got in the way. There’s just too much obvious fandom here, and the awkward parts are so blatantly awkward that they couldn’t have been part of the original draft. This wanted to be a comic-adaptation, but it was forced into being feature length. That’s my thought. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out the interview with writer Brian Azzarello later today to see how true this is!] Lexi: That makes sense. I can’t see the same single individual creating something that was simultaneously so faithful and such a borderline-insulting bastardization of something that’s so precious to fans. I think if this had been a proper rewrite, fleshing out and expanding what was present rather than stitching on a completely separate storyline with a different feel and flavor, this could have been a lot more satisfying. Though an hour-long short film might have just been better. Overall this gets a 3 out of 5 from me. The good struggles to outbalance the bad, and it won’t end up being something I remember fondly — my memories of this will go straight to that uncomfortably random sex scene. Brooke: I agree completely. This is one case where less would have been more. Or make it longer and fill out the new plots better. Lexi: And not have Batman knowingly throw a little person into a pit of spikes. Brooke: The sex scene doesn’t bother me so much as the general disconnect from the main storyline. I kept waiting on Batman to tie things to Joker somehow, and it did, but in a meta kinda way that only makes sense at the end of the movie. That’s just me though. I want to give this a higher score just for the acting and the animation, but the story is ultimately the weakest part of the movie. So I gotta also give it 3 out of 5. This should be seen. I just suggest renting it before just nabbing the DVD. Lexi: Agreed. Ish. Just keep it in your mind that, if you’re a fan of Alan Moore’s original The Killing Joke, this isn’t the savior you’ve been waiting for. See larger image Batman: The Killing Joke [Blu-ray] Batman: The Killing Joke (BD) To prove that one bad day can make any man as insane as he is, the Joker wages a psychological war on Batman that catches Commissioner Gordon and his daughter in the crippling crossfire and leaves scars on the Dark Knight that even time won’t heal. New From: $7.69 USD In Stock Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)Alex's RatingBrooke's Rating3.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (1 Vote)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.