Batman: The Killing Joke Review
The story of this film is based on the dark and twisted 1988 Alan Moore/Brian Bolland one-shot graphic novel, “Batman: The Killing Joke.” Starring the voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker, Tara Strong as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and Ray Wise as Commissioner Gordon.
The following review contains some spoilers from the film and the graphic novel.
The film has taken quite a bit of creative license, expanding the story leading up to what is covered in the book, which doesn’t cover the tale of Barbara Gordon in as much detail as the film. Tara Strong is great in her role as Gordon, in what had the potential to be a really gruesome narrative. As a matter of fact, the history of the graphic novel is so dark that I almost dreaded seeing it, but my curiosity got the best of me.
Barbara becomes increasingly frustrated in the first 20 minutes of the film, because it seems that Batman is constantly controlling her, not trusting her to make decisions and protecting her when she doesn’t feel she needs protection. Then, when a night of passion stems from the argument, Barbara feels even more pushed away.
After Batman is ambushed by a villain named Paris, who has a thing for Barbara, she takes matters into her own hands to successfully rescue him, battering Paris to a pulp. Barbara realizes that the relationship between her and Batman cannot work. “I saw that abyss you spoke about. Very scary.” Barbara told him.
Barbara’s life goes on as a civilian, instead of The Batgirl from that point. Commissioner Gordon and Batman meet at Arkham to speak to The Joker, in one of the best animated scenes adapted from a graphic novel that I can recall. An imposter Joker has taken the place of the psychopathic clowned prince. Meanwhile, the real Joker is scoping out his new terrain at an abandoned carnival.
Barbara and Commissioner Gordon are at home when Barbara answers the door and Joker is standing with a gun to shoot her in the abdomen. Commissioner Gordon is beaten by Joker’s henchmen and taken away. There are flashbacks to the backstory of an unidentified failed comedian who is trying to make money for his growing family. He takes a job with an underground mob family, where he’ll be carrying out a job for them at a chemical factory.
We flash forward to see Barbara in the hospital, surrounded by doctors, telling Batman that she’ll never walk again. She’s been brutally assaulted by The Joker, who told her that he wanted to prove a point.
The Joker’s goal is to drive the commissioner mad.
The backstory of the unidentified comedian continues. His wife has died of an electrical accident and the mob insists that the comedian must still continue his mission for them, or face unexpected repercussions. It’s revealed that The Red Hood has become The Joker that we know, after falling into a vat of chemicals at the factory, while being chased by Batman. The film really begins to lineup perfectly with the book by this point and the animation in the scenes will be an incredibly powerful reminder of the graphic novel.
Aside from “A Death In The Family,” this story and “The Dark Knight Returns” are my favorite – and possibly strongest tales in the Batman story arc.
The story is what it is. It’s not going to make non-fans happy. There’s no revenge, no redemption and no happy ending. If you read the book, though, your curiosity may get the best of you, too. It was worth seeing, though you’ll gain no joy by watching it, only the satisfaction of knowing the tale has finally been told. For an average fan, this is probably not a film that will interest you, until you’ve read the book and decided if it’s a story you’re interested in.
The BluRay edition is available at most retailers for between $18-21. The DVD is a few dollars less. There is a special boxed set with a Joker figure that is between $24-26 at Walmart.