I had the good fortune this past Monday night to be able to score a ticket to one of the Fathom Event showings of ‘Batman: The Killing Joke,’ which I was understandably very excited about. The latest offering from the DC Animated team had everything going for it, an outstanding source comic that they were going to stay true to, so much so that they were producing the movie with an “R” rating, plus the film featured the return of Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/ Batman, Tara strong as Barbara Gordan/ Batgirl, and of course, Mark Hamill returning to his iconic voice-role of the Joker.
Going into the film, I had heard about some controversy, as well as the fact that the source comic was too short to be a full feature length movie. So I was ok with them having to open up the story and add some elements, including a brief behind the scenes part at the beginning detailing how Mark Hamill first came to play the Joker, and another making of video at the end detailing the film’s composers and how they contributed to the tone of the film. Basically, I went in with mixed expectations, which was fitting, because my experience was about the same.
The first half of the film is basically a long prologue chronicling the last case where Barbara Gordan works beside Batman as Batgirl, giving us some insight into her “romance” with Batman which has only been hinted at before, and seemed very odd to shoehorn into this movie. I mean they even have sex, which just feels wrong in the scope of this film, which really has very little to do with Batgirl beside the terrible fate that befalls her when she is later shot by the Joker. I understand that they wanted to remind the audience that she was a hero, and a powerful woman, but her whole story seems very lazy, and predictable, and I could not wait until they got to the actual “Killing Joke.”
In the context of the movie, the “Killing Joke’ plot starts about a week after the first half, and let me tell you, it was pretty incredible. As soon as Mark Hamill’s Joker enters the scene the whole movie starts firing on all cylinders, and even if some people might complain that the whole thing is lifted pretty much shot for shot from the comic, that is just fine by me. Hearing the cool score, the awesome voice-work by Hamill, Conroy and Strong, it feels like the definitive film experience for the comic, and I will stand by that. I also loved the nods to the ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ peppered through the film, as not only with the main voice cast, but also the various characters spotted throughout wearing a Batman costume matching the one worn by Bruce Wayne during the animated series, as well as Batman riding into Joker’s amusement park in a batmobile that matched the one he drove in the animated series.
In the end, I would have given this movie 5 Atoms were it just the ‘Killing Joke’ story, but the unnecessary addition of the Batgirl prologue brought it right down to 2.5 Atoms, as that really hurt the film as a whole. Make sure to check out the movie for yourself and then share your own opinion of it in the comments section below!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.