Just Pick Up a Comic Book – Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

Hard to live up to the book.  Based on the classic Alan Moore graphic novel, this tells both the origin story of the Joker (Mark Hamill) and, later on, when he purchases an amusement park and launches an attack against the Gordon family.  Let me first start by saying how good the source material is to this.  Alan Moore is a crazed genius, and the graphic novel only takes about a half hour to read, and it makes for a great experience.  It’s hard to do it justice, and the animated movie falls more than a little bit short.

2Although this scene was just weird both in film and on the page.

There was much hullabaloo surrounding the production of this, largely due to the fact that this is the first movie in the DC Animated Universe to be rated R.  It’s a much more brutal story than most, so it makes total sense there.  It’s a terrific story, so I had to check this out… and then I found myself waiting 30 minutes for the real story to start, and this is only has a 76-minute runtime total.  The first half of this movie is just an origin story for Batgirl, which I can see why they did that, as the actual story of the Killing Joke reads like a breeze, but I would have much rather seen them expand on other parts rather then focusing on this generic mobster.  Also, they did something with her story that I’m not 100% cool with, you’ll know when you see it.  I’m largely familiar with the lore of Batman, and while I haven’t read every single comic book about him, I’ve read my fair share.  What they do here feels totally against both of their characters.

1Also, the ambiguity of the ending is almost completely lost, due to it not being on the printed page.

The animation here is also not anything to write home about, and it feels rushed in a number of different parts.  Conroy and Hamill turn in good voice work like they usually do, but I did feel that a number of their lines sound a bit wooden; they were simply taking lines verbatim directly from the comic, when they should have been modifying them slightly to make them sound more natural for the spoken tongue.  I’m sure Alan Moore hates this, but that’s not saying much, as he vehemently spits venom whenever anybody touches his work.  I feel like this could have been significantly better handled, and I hope DC bounces back for next time (in their animated universe, of course, their live-action universe is much taller order to salvage).

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) ***

– Critic for Hire


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