Batman: The Killing Joke Comes To Life On The Big Screen
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.”
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke is one of the most notorious Batman stories to exist. The Killing Joketells the tale of the Joker venture to drive Commissioner Jim Gordon insane while the Caped Crusader tries to stop him. A nice bonus, the graphic novel presents a pseudo-definitive origin to one of the greatest villains in comic book history. It also establishes Barbara Gordon for her next phase as Oracle after becoming paralyzed at the Joker’s hand. Fans have been begging for a film adaptation of the story and, after several failed attempts, Warner Bros. Animation has delivered with its latest DC Original Animated Movie.
Possible SPOILERS ahead
The Killing Joke begins with Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong) three years into her ‘relationship’ with Batman (Kevin Conroy). She manages as a librarian by day, dodging potential beau’s, and having girl talk with her gay coworker. She’s charmed with her “yoga teacher”, who is really the Dark Knight, who prefers to be in control. They haven’t gone all the way yet. It’s not that kind of relationship, so far. Talk about a build up huh?
Batman and Batgirl, known to have a father-daughter chemistry go down this path of a lovers relationship is the sort of bold move that fans will either love or hate since it wasn’t a part of the original storyline. With that being said, it’s something you can’t turn your eyes from.
As if the whole Batman & Batgirl relationship piece didn’t offend those who remain true to the original storyline, a different element comes into play. The Joker rapes Barbara Gordon. Batman talks to a group of hookers who say the Joker goes to a cathouse when he busts out of Arkham. This time, he didn’t and one of the prostitutes assumes, “Maybe he found himself another girl.”
So now that I’ve explained those two elements, we can move on to the rest of the film.
The second half of the film is where the adaptation of the novel really begins. Batman’s journey to seek harmony with the Joker is marred by the villain’s latest escape from Arkham that results in Barbara Gordon getting paralyzed (and raped)by his hand in an effort to prove to Batman that even the rational person can be driven crazy by one bad day.
The Killing Joke is easily the most faithful adaptation that Warner Bros. Animation has put out so far. Everything about the dual stories runs as perfectly as they do in the origin of the book, and it’s so amazing to finally see this exhibited in this form. I particularly enjoyed the musical number that gets fleshed out. It’s done in a way that pairs flawlessly with the horrific display taking place at the same time.
The voice acting in The Killing Joke is just amazing, but Mark Hamill’s return as the Joker is an Oscar-worthy act. He seizes the essence of the character as flawlessly as ever, but his talent to play up the parallel between pre- and post-accident Joker is extremely praiseworthy. I really think this is his best outing as the character yet. In addition, Ray Wise delivers a wonderful performance as Commissioner Jim Gordon, and his heartbreak while being driven to the point of madness is expressed in a way that truly grips you.
The soundtrack to the film is magnificent. The Killing Joke included a short featurette on the soundtrack’s creation, and it’s great to see the live string orchestra play what underscores the horror and emotion of the film.
As far as the visuals of the film go, the animation is spot-on. There were plenty of great Easter eggs, too, that fans will enjoy discovering . Some of those Easter eggs include Jack Nicholson, Jason Todd, and Heath Ledger. I’m sure you will thoroughly enjoy them, I know I sure as hell did. Finally, the film often employed tonal shifts among horror and comedy, and these shifts worked every single time .
The Killing Joke is as rooted in an adaptation of the graphic novel as we could ever hope to get. The prologue may be unnecessary, but, for me, it added a lot to the novel that only intensified my satisfaction. I believe this is one of the best-animated films that we’ve ever gotten from DC.