Comics Movie Review

Movie Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke is an animated film adaptation of the 1988 one-shot graphic novel of the same name. It involves Batman once again fighting the Joker, but with an interesting plot twist that may have all but the most hardcore Batman fans questioning the true nature of the Joker.

Anyone familiar with DC Comics knows of the decades-long rivalry between Batman and his nemesis, the Joker. The relationship between the superhero and the villain is a long and complicated one and has been revisited many times over the years. 

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Batgirl (aka Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Commissioner James Gordon) is also prevalent in the movie, and her relationship with Batman is further explored, albeit briefly. Batgirl's presence fighting crime alongside Batman leads Batman to worry about her safety. The Batgirl segment could have been expanded on and done better. It raises a lot of unanswered questions, such as whether or not Batman and Batgirl could have been something more than just partners in crime fighting. This could have been solved by possibly having flashbacks about their relationship, such as how they met and how she became Batgirl. However, the vagueness of the segment was necessary to the experience, as it got the fans talking about Batgirl. It even provoked the wrath of some critics as to how Batgirl was portrayed. This segment alone could open up a sequel,  should DC Comics choose to pursue it (even taking creative license with the source material). After the Batgirl segment, the Joker reappears, having broken out of Arkham Asylum once more to wreak havoc on Gotham City.

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While the Joker has been portrayed as an unpredictable villain throughout the series, Batman: The Killing Joke explores the origins of the Joker and portrays him as a more tragic figure than the more commonly expected role of the Joker as a unpredictable psychopath. This treatment of the Joker invokes much discussion among fans of the series. A popular trope in superhero TV shows and movies is that a regular person undergoes a watershed moment (in this case, a tragedy), either directly or indirectly affecting them, which transforms them into the person they are today. This trope makes this Batman movie far more cerebral than many of the other movies (even movies that feature the Joker), as the Joker attempts to drive both Batman and the Commissioner Gordon into madness.

The performance of Mark Hamill as The Joker is top-notch and solidifies his reputation as a voice actor. Hamill also voiced The Joker on several other occasions, including in the 1992 series Batman: The Animated Series, as well as in video game adaptations of Batman games on Sega CD and multi-platform video games such as Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Arkham Knight. Tara Strong, another veteran voice actress, does a great job at portraying Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. Kevin Conroy, who also voiced Batman in Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, and in multiple Batman video games, also reprises his role here.

A lot of long-time or hardcore Batman fans may appreciate the film, but there are a large group of fans who may be unaware of the existence of the 30-year-old graphic novel slash source material. As a casual Batman fan, I have not read the novel yet, but I plan to do so. While the producers stuck to the source material well, it's also one of those films that divides people on the premise of reading the book/novel or watching the movie first. This splits the expectations between long-time fans and hardcore fans, and casual fans and more recent fans of the Batman franchise.

Grade: B

Images © DC Comics

 

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About the author

Jose "AWPerative" Alvarez

A lifelong gamer and avid soccer and basketball fan, Jose is a manager and recruiter at DVS Gaming.