Release: 8th August 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
The story follows Batman (Conroy) as he tries to apprehend his nemesis The Joker (Hamill) while exploring the origins of his most famous foe. After escaping from prison, The Joker targets the Gordon family for his next attack and kidnaps the Commissioner (Ray Wise) to prove that a bad day can turn even the most honourable man insane, just like it did to him.
Hello you. Yes, you there under that rock. So I hear you’ve never read the classic Batman graphic novel, The Killing Joke? We’ll it is basically considered the gospel on how Bruce Wayne’s premier foe, the Joker, came into being. At nearly 30 years old, Alan Moore’s high influential work sees it debut as an animated movie.
The biggest and most decisive difference between comic and film is that The Killing Joke film introduces a 20-minute prologue focusing on Batgirl. It’s a bit of a stinker, and does little to allay the many feminist arguments lobbied at the original material. In fact, one might argue that the new prologue only serves to do two things. Trip up the main story’s pacing and bring more limelight to the idea that Batgirl is basically a vagina in a cape. You see, Batman can operate without emotion because he is a man. Now get back in that kitchen Barb and cook your daddy some dinner. Yikes guys, it is like 2016! Did you really write this stuff, or find it in the back of a Viz magazine?
On to the meat and potatoes of why we are here. The Joker side of The Killing Joke is a faithful and deliciously Mark Hamillised depiction, but it lacks the moral and psychological complexity of Moore’s original. Everything is present and by the book (pardon the pun), but for some reason the gravitas is missing. Words just seemingly come out of people’s mouths, but they have little meaning. The tone and pace move in short bursts of violence, and then trundle along with little tension. The animation is fine, but nowhere near the expressive glory one might expect given Brian Bolland’s blueprints.
One of Batman’s main draws has always been that his journey is often a mental as well as physical one. Chris Nolan and Heath Ledger nailed this with The Dark Knight, and it is clear that the likes of The Killing Joke were an inspiration for them along the way. To lift that source material wholesale and plaster it on a screen, however, proves an ill advised move in adapting that original work. There is a lot about The Killing Joke which only really works on the page, and doesn’t translate to screen. Making it more violent or ‘adult’ than your average animated movie is not a good enough attempt at ‘modernising’. The Killing Joke needs to be more cerebral, and tonally more adventurous than the average Batman cartoon. The voice cast definitely deliver, and you can see the team have gone to great lengths to ensure a faithful adaptation. But when Alan Moore will be pissed no matter what you do, why strive so hard to echo his work so literally? Take the core, keep what works and make it more relevant. The idea of a Killing Joke movie may sound like a fanboy wet dream, but in reality it is just a painful reminder than gender politics and kinetic storytelling have a long way to go in the comic book world.
Film Grade: C-
There are really only 4 features on the Blu-Ray worth checking out.
Two specially selected Batman cartoons (sorry, animated features) provide some nice filler, while two documentaries about the making of The Killing Joke are pretty interesting.
The rest are, in essence, glorified adverts.
Special Features Grade: C
Fans will be disappointed and kids might be a little disturbed. The Killing Joke is made for everyone, but will appeal to no one. Such a waste of great source material.