For comic book fans, both the casual and the extreme, there are always going to be those definitive story lines or one-shots that are a “must read”. The reason for that is because the subject matter is so pivitol that it has a profound impact on the characters in the comic. In regards to Batman, Alan Moore’s graphic novel “Batman : The Killing Joke” has long been considered such a book and has been cited as inspirations for both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan when they made their movies featuring the Joker. Now when I heard that they were making an animated movie based on this graphic novel, I was surprised but also intrigued because this was a darker story than DC would usually do. However, they did do Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” so I could see them making this work. When I heard that Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, and Tara Strong were returning to reprise their respective characters, I knew I was definitely going to be getting this movie. So let’s see how good a job was done with today’s movie, Batman: The Killing Joke.
The plot: On patrol in Gotham, Batgirl sees Batman talking with Commissioner Gordon and handing him a folder just before Batman contacts her about an armored car robbery. Batman and Batgirl go after the crooks but while the manage to capture some of the men, the driver and the crook’s leader, Paris Franz, manage to escape. Later that night, Paris and the driver go to see Paris’s uncle, a crime lord named Francesco, who chastises them for bringing Batman and Batgirl down on him and demands that Paris pay him back the money he lost. The next day, Barbara Gordon is at work at the library but working on helping her father’s street camera program when she spots Paris and his men entering a building. Heading there, she finds Paris and his men robbing one of his uncle’s vaults but when she tries to stop them, Paris gases her and tries to kiss her but she manages to lock herself inside the vault. Later, Batgirl is sitting on the roof of a building watching the police when Batman hands her a cup of coffee after telling her she was only unconscious for a few minutes before he got her. He then tells her about Paris and warns her to be careful around him. The next day, Paris and his men are on Paris’s boat when they are attacked by some masked gunmen but Paris manages to kill most of them by blowing up his yacht while he and his lieutenant use scuba gear to escape. Paris sends a message to Batgirl via the police and Batman pulls her off the case, despite her protests, saying she isn’t taking Paris seriously enough. Batgirl starts to follow Batman but realizes that Paris’s clue led to somewhere else and she heads to the police impound lot and finds a phone in the passenger seat of the armored car. Speaking with Paris over the phone, he leads her to his uncle’s penthouse, where she finds Francesco’s dead body. She then tries to escape from Francesco’s men and ends up being rescued by Batman. Later, the two argue on the roof and Batgirl ends up lashing out at Batman and manages to knock him down and as she is on top of him, she suddenly kisses him and the two end up having sex. A few days later, Batgirl contacts Batman to talk about things but he says they will talk later as he is on the trail of Paris. Ending the call, Batman is suddenly ambushed by Paris and his men and ends up being wounded. Paris and his men go to finish him off but Batgirl, who was nearby, saves Batman and starts brutally pummeling Paris before she finally stops herself. The next night, Barbara gives Batman her costume and gear, deciding to retire from being a crime fighter and find another way to help Gotham. A week later, Batman is called to the scene of a crime where the bodies of four people that went missing three years earlier have been found. Batman contacts Commissioner Gordon and says that they need to see the Joker, and has him meet him at Arkham, where they discover that Joker has escaped and left a stand-in in his place. At an abandoned amusement park, Joker is speaking with a man about buying the property. As he looks at a poster of “The Fat Lady”, he starts reminiscing about before he became the Joker, and how he was a failed comic who was trying to find a way to make money to support him and his pregnant wife. Back in the present, Joker talks to the man and shakes his hand before taking off the glove as he continues talking to the man, who is now dead from the Joker Toxin. At Barbara’s apartment, Barbara is talking with her dad when she opens the door to find the Joker standing there, who points a gun at her stomach and pulls the trigger. Barbara is thrown backwards by the shot and as Gordon goes to tend to her, Joker starts making comments about her spine being broken. When Gordon tries to lash out at him, the Joker’s henchmen knock him unconscious before carrying him away while Joker kneels down next to Barbara and begins unbuttoning her shirt. In flashback, you see the Joker making a deal with some criminals to help them get through a chemical plant he worked at so they can rob the place next door, and being given the mask of the Red Hood to wear during the robbery. In the present, Batman and Harvey Bullock are at the hospital, where the doctors have determined that Barbara will never walk again. After Harvey tells him how Barbara was found, Batman asks to be alone with Barbara and he starts talking to her when she regains consciousness and tells him that Joker has taken her father and is worried about what he will do. At the amusement park, Commissioner Gordon is stripped and brought before the Joker, who plans on torturing him to prove that anyone can be tipped over the edge of sanity if pushed hard enough. In flashback, the Joker is finishing his discussion with the crooks when two police officers arrive and ask to speak with him. When Joker returns to the table, the men ask what the cops wanted and Joker tells them that his wife was just killed in an accident. The crooks sympathize but tell him that he still has to be there that night to help them with the robbery or else he will be joining his wife. Back in the present, Batman starts going to various criminal hideouts to try and find a clue as to where Joker is but nobody knows anything. Meanwhile, Joker has Gordon placed in a funhouse ride and begins asking him questions and when Gordon responds, Joker reveals that the person they were talking about is Batman. As the ride continues, Joker begins singing a song while pictures of a nude and injured Barbara, which causes Gordon to start screaming out Barbara’s name. When the ride ends, Gordon appears catatonic and the Joker is upset that things done seem to be going as he planned but hopes they will get more interesting when Batman arrives. In flashback, Joker is seen wearing the Red Hood disguise and leading the two men through the factory when some security guards spot them and begin firing at them, killing the two men. Joker runs off but Batman arrives and moves towards him and as he tries to get away, Joker trips on his cape and falls into a vat of chemicals. sucked out the drain to the outside, Joker climbs onto the shore and after taking off the mask and seeing what was done to him, he begins laughing. In the present, Batman had been sent a ticket to the amusement park and when he gets there, he sees the body of the property owner. Suddenly, the Joker starts talking over the PA system while Batman is attacked by the carnival freaks that Joker has working for him. After Batman deals with them, he sees the Joker standing next to a cage containing Gordon, calling him the average man, then heads into the funhouse when Batman tries to grab him. Batman checks on Gordon, who asks about Barbara then tells Batman that he wants Joker to be brought in by the book, showing that he is still sane. Inside the funhouse, Joker taunts Batman saying that a bad day turned him into the Joker and that Batman must have had a bad day himself in order to explain why he dresses like a bat to fight crime. Batman eventually catches up to the Joker and after they fight, Batman explains that Gordon told him to do things by the book, telling Joker he failed to drive Gordon insane. The fight continues outside and when Joker tries to shoot Batman with a joke gun, he gives up and tells Batman to commence with beating him up. Batman refuses, saying he will do things by the book in the hopes that they can end their constant struggle peacefully before they end up killing each other. Joker says it’s too late for him, then says this reminds him of a joke, which he proceeds to tell Batman. As Joker starts laughing at the punchline, Batman starts laughing as well and the two start laughing as Batman approaches the Joker until the Jokers laughter fades out and only Batman is heard laughing. Some time later, Barbara Gordon is talking with her dad on the phone while she maneuvers her wheelchair through her apartment. After hanging up the phone, she enters a hidden room in her apartment, where several computer monitors start powering up and Barbara says “Time to go to work” as the Oracle logo appears on the main screen.
Batman: The Killing Joke met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics didn’t like the movies prologue but liked the second part that was actually based on the comic. In 2011, Mark Hamill wanted to stop playing the Joker but stated that he would be willing to reprise the role if a movie was ever made for this graphic novel. When Bruce Timm, who was one of the creators of Batman: The Animated Series, expressed an interest in making the movie, and later announced that it was indeed being made, he contacted Hamill and managed to get not only him, but Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, and Ray Wise to reprise their roles of Joker, Batman, Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, and Commisioner Gordon respectively. The movie was originally going to be a direct to DVD release only but Fathom Events decided to have a one night only screening at select theaters on July 25th, 2016, with two additional showings the following day due to the demand. The movie would wind up making $4.2 million in the two days, making it a success given the $3.5 million budget.
This was an interesting movie because it felt a little like two separate episodes than one complete movie. The voice acting was definitely top notch, with Mark Hamil, Kevin Conroy, and Tara Strong doing a great job reprising their roles. The plot for the main portion of the movie was great and stayed very true to the original comic. I really liked how they made the ending similar to the comic as the screen goes black but you continue hearing Batman laugh but not the Joker, leaving you to wonder what happened. The beginning portion that focused on Batgirl and her relationship with Batman was meant to showcase Batgirl and what she wound up losing after the Joker paralyzed her but it came across as more of a bad teenage drama, especially the part involving Batman and Batgirl having sex. The animation was fantastic and really did look a lot like the drawings Brian Bolland did for the original comic. Not entirely what I expected but a good movie overall.
Rating: 4 out of 5