Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

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Director: Sam Liu

Cast: Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong

Review Author: Tony

Rating: 2.5/5 cans of Guinness

This is probably the part where I’m supposed to tell you what a massive fan I am of the classic Alan Moore graphic Novel, Batman: The Killing Joke, but I only finally sat down to read it about a month ago, so my experience with it is quite fresh although very positive. The DC animated features have been brilliant, it’s the main category that DC are leagues ahead of Marvel; so when The Killing Joke was announced with most the talent behind Batman: The Animated Series returning I knew I had to get myself up to scratch. It’s easy to see why The Killing Joke is considered the best Batman story to date, it really digs into the relationship between Batman and the Joker and shows us that they’ve more in common than Batman would like to admit. It’s a dark and uncomfortable story with some truly haunting imagery, but Moore knew that Batman and Joker were not the Yin and Yang we had all believed.

The Killing Joke has remained one of the most controversial graphic novels due to its depiction of sexual violence to Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl. Even by Moore’s own regrettable admission Batgirl is resigned to simply a plot device yet her character suffers the harshest implications of the story, being confined to a wheelchair and retired as Batgirl. While many have cried foul of this outcome (especially the more radical feminists) I find Batgirl’s fate a very important incident in the DC universe. This is one of the few casualties that has remained throughout the course of DC publications Comic book enthusiasts can tell you in great detail that deaths or casualties have only short-term impacts with characters making miraculous recoveries or returning from the dead, giving little weight to the deaths or tragedies in the first place. Barbara Gordon is not a victim or a survivor, rather than succumb to her fate she became Oracle, a popular and important heroine to the DC universe.

The film opens with Batgirl narrating and for the first thirty minutes stays solely on her. This is perhaps the film’s biggest flaw, not because its Batgirl, but because it’s so stale and barely fits into the grand narrative. The liberties taken here seriously affect the narrative as the film tries to make Batgirl a more three-dimensional character, where it really should have just focused on the original central characters. The amount of screen time delegated to Batgirl is probably a response to the resurfacing sexist claims against the graphic novel. There has been this odd resurgence of radical feminists in the last few years which have been dubbed Social Justice Warriors, while on the other side of the coin groups of Anti-Social Justice Warriors who are just as extreme and obnoxious in their opinions, this has led to venom and ignorance being spouted by both parties with very little progressive thought among them. I honestly believe that both parties need to be ignored completely and certainly never catered to.

When the plot finally settles on The Killing Joke story it’s by far the strongest aspect of the film. Having Conroy and Hamill return is not only great nostalgia, it’s also the film’s greatest strength. Mark Hamill is the best rendition we’ve seen as the Joker ever, and hearing his voice brought me great joy. The animation is a bit lacking, but the flashback sequences allow for a different colour palette which I found more favourable as they were the best sequences of the film.

The finally is a faithful adaptation, but doesn’t carry the same impact of the final panels of the graphic novel, I think most fans expected this. It’s still as fantastic an epilogue as ever, it just isn’t as sombre a moment we saw in the graphic novel.

I find it unfortunate that Batman: The Killing Joke is such a disappointment considering the stack of talent behind it, by trying to cater to the PC crowd the narrative becomes disjointed and confusing. I think I speak for most when I say that a completely faithful adaptation was all that we required, the first thirty minutes only feels like distracting filler that’s there to expand the films run time.

If you agree or disagree with my review of The Killing Joke, let us know in the comment section or throw a tweet our way @ReelTimeDublin.

4 responses to “Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

  1. An insightful review, I’ve read a lot of emotional arguing about the Batgirl fate, but you sum it up very clearly, thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Tony’s 10 worst films of 2016 | Reel Time Dublin·

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