Batman: The Killing Joke Review

There was no reason for any hardcore Batman fans not to be excited about this movie, particularly if you’re a fan of Batman: The Animated Series. Kevin Conroy returns as the voice of Batman. Tara Strong returns as the voice of Batgirl. Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett returning to produce. The film is an adaptation of one of the most insane and brutal yet beloved and revered Batman graphic novels of all time and it had permission to go for an R-rating. And of course, Mark Hamill makes his triumphant return as the voice of the Joker. So, does this film live up to the hype?
You may recall that in a previous review, I stated that Batman: Under the Red Hood was my favorite Batman movie of all time. Well, that film may have a competitor. That competitor being Batman: The Killing Joke. Yes, the movie is that good.
Okay, before I get into actual positives and negatives, I need to emphasize this. DO NOT show this to your children unless you want to give them nightmares because this movie is BRUTAL. Given the amount of blood and violence in previous DC animated films, I questioned how much more violent this film would end up being in order to warrant an R-rating. But as soon as the first bit of graphic violence occurred, you’ll know it when you see it, I was thinking “Oh My Word! Now I get it!” Like with Deadpool, I can see a way it could work fine as a PG-13, but at the same time, I wonder if the film would have suffered if it weren’t allowed to go all out. But unlike Deadpool, this film only gets the R-rating from the violence and some disturbing images.
Now there actually isn’t that much action in this film, but what little action there is in it is really well done. The crews behind these DC animated movies always know how to deliver really engaging action sequences as well as dazzling animation. Yep, that’s the next positive. The animation is gorgeous. The art style really fits the tone of the film and while I haven’t read the graphic novel, though the other day I was at my local comic book shop and they had a couple copies and I was tempted to get one, from what I’ve seen of it, and based on fans reaction to the screening at Comic-Con this past weekend, this movie is very accurate to the graphic novel.
This isn’t something I normally talk about in my reviews, but I love the dialogue in this movie. The final scene’s dialogue is particularly great, and around the middle of the film, Batman gives a great monologue about the “relationship” between him and the Joker, delivered brilliantly by Kevin Conroy.
I think it goes without saying that the acting from Kevin Conroy and Tara Strong in this movie is great, but this might just be Mark Hamill’s best performance as the Joker yet. He actually does a lot more in terms of his performance in this film. Every now and then, the film would go into flashbacks of the events leading up to him becoming the Joker. We see that he was a failing comedian struggling to make a living to provide for his wife and coming child and becomes so desperate that he tries doing business with the mob. I won’t say any more than that in order to avoid spoiler territory, but I really felt bad for him. How often can you ever say that you felt sympathy for the Joker’s story?
I was surprised that given how much of the original Animated Series cast returned for this movie, that the original voice of Commissioner Gordon didn’t return. Don’t get me wrong. Ray Wise is fantastic as Gordon in this movie. In fact, if JK Simmons wasn’t going to play Gordon in Justice League next year, I wouldn’t mind seeing Ray Wise in the role in live action. But later I found out that the original voice for Gordon, Bob Hastings, sadly passed away in 2014.
I really don’t have much to complain about, but I do have to bring up the complaint I’ve heard the most. That being the first 20 to 30 minutes of the film that primarily focused on Batgirl. According to the filmmakers and even some fans, even if you were to adapt the entire Killing Joke graphic novel panel by panel, you would probably only end up with about a 45 minute film. So obviously, they had to add some extra stuff in order to reach a proper film length (In terms of DC animated movies, that’s about an hour and 15 minutes.). Bruce Timm also said that he wanted to expand Barbara Gordon’s role in the film since in the graphic novel, her role is extremely small. Again, I haven’t read the graphic novel, so I don’t know the validity of that. But what I do know is that she was never Batgirl at any point in the graphic novel. While I don’t entirely agree with the complaint people have made, I can partially understand it. The first 20 to 30 minutes of this movie is focused on Batman and Batgirl going up against this mobster who is in love with and starts toying with Batgirl. It also spends time developing some tension (for lack of a better term) between her and Batman. This is done to give us more of a connection to her when… well I don’t want to spoil what happens but if you know about the biggest moments from the graphic novel, you probably know what I’m talking about. The major complaint is that it has nothing to do with the Joker. The Joker doesn’t even show up until about halfway into the movie. But I honestly don’t mind the Batgirl prologue. Yes, the transition into the actual Killing Joke section of the movie is a little awkward, but the prologue isn’t bad by any means. My only issue with it is that every once in a while, the movie would cut to Barbara working at some library and talking with a friend of hers who would get kind of annoying at times. The other complaint people have is regarding the sex scene between Batgirl and Batman. Honestly, my only issue is that there’s a sex scene at all.
In the end, while it has a few issues, Batman: The Killing Joke is among the best of the DC Animated films and as I said, it may be on par with Under the Red Hood as my favorite Batman movie. It has great animation, great acting, great action, and it’s honestly almost like a psychological thriller and a great character study. Batman: The Killing Joke gets 4.5 out of 5 Batarangs and I will definitely buy the Blu-Ray when it comes out.
I seriously wish this had gotten more theatrical showings like maybe just a full week release. Clearly people would go see it. The movie made $3,000,000 which is a pretty good haul for a one night release.

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