REVIEW: Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

Poster - Warner Bros. Animation
Poster – Warner Bros. Animation

The following is a review of the DC Universe Original Movie ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’.

Whether you love it or hate it, you cannot deny that Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke-graphic novel is a controversial but iconic graphic novel. Personally, I get all of the controversy revolving around Barbara Gordon, I don’t like the scenes. But I cannot help but really like some parts of that disturbing graphic novel. Therefore, I was pretty damn excited for the release of this animated DC film, but – and I really hate to say this – Batman: The Killing Joke is a really poor animated movie.

I feel like I really should point out how excited I was for this exact film again. Once I heard that we’d get Conroy and Hamill to return as their respective iconic DC Comics characters for the most well-known Joker one-shot story, it rose up to the top of my list of anticipated films with DC characters. At a certain point, I was more excited for this film than I was for both live-action DC Comics-films in 2016.

Batman: The Killing Joke tells the Joker’s origin story – or a version of it at the very least – and the story also sees the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) trying to convince Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) that anyone can be driven to madness. Now, the big problem with the graphic novel is that Barbara Gordon (voiced by Tara Strong in the movie) becomes a plot-device, and what happens to her is awful.

They don’t fix that problem in this movie, and I’ll admit that I didn’t expect them to. But I did know that they were adding some new scenes to the story, as The Killing Joke isn’t very long (the movie isn’t that long either, but if they hadn’t added a ton of new story to the movie, then this animated movie would have only been, like, 40 to 45 minutes long).

What they’ve added, however, is really, really bad. This is where I have to go into spoilers, so you probably shouldn’t read further if you’re excited about the film. They’ve basically attached a 30-minute movie about Batgirl’s crush on Batman that basically culminates in a really odd and inappropriate sex scene between the two. Awful.

It doesn’t help that this mini-movie and the rest of the film (The Killing Joke-part of the animated film) don’t connect very well. We suddenly get a new point-of-view, and you don’t really see Barbara Gordon that much anymore – outside of the extremely controversial scene that they’ve adapted. I hate what the Batgirl-part of the film does to Barbara Gordon, and what it does to her relationship with Batman.

Everyone expected great voice acting performances here, but I wasn’t impressed with those either. Don’t get me wrong, Mark Hamill does a good job here, but some of the iconic speeches that Hamill does aren’t that powerful here, for some reason. Some of the other performances felt lifeless. And the iconic ending falls completely flat. If you care after that ending, then know that there is a mid-credits scene with Barbara Gordon.

All in all, Batman: The Killing Joke doesn’t work. It doesn’t fix the mistakes of the graphic novel, and it doesn’t even work all that well when adapting the good iconic scenes. I’m sure this animated movie will work for some people, but for people like me, the only reason to watch this film is to rewatch the origin story of the Joker (which I really like) and to hear Mark Hamill voice the Joker again.

5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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