film & game reviews, the retro way.
THE KILLING JOKE
Robin Atkin Downes
Although Marvel's domination in terms of their live-action output perseveres, one shouldn't downplay just how good DC's animated films have been over the past few years so the prospect of an adaptation of Alan Moore's iconic graphic novel sounded like a potentially great idea.
The first animated Batman feature to be released in cinemas for a long time, Batman: The Killing Joke reunites Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and The Joker respectively in one of the Dark Knight's most famously brutal and controversial stories.
The film was met with criticism when it was revealed that the first half hour would ultimately lead to Barbara Gordon (voiced by Tara Strong) and Batman getting together. Indeed, this prologue feels very much out of place not to mention out of character for all involved. If the goal was to show that both Batman and Batgirl are flawed then mission accomplished but that point doesn't really impact the rest of the film so it feels like a mostly irrelevant addition.
That said, as soon as the Joker is brought into the equation, the film becomes the dark and twisted story we remember. Like the animated feature adaptations of The Dark Knight Returns released a few years ago, The Killing Joke doesn't really try to match the detailed art style of the source material, which is a shame. Instead, we get something along the lines of an updated version of Batman: The Animated Series. It works but it's another missed opportunity, frankly.
The fate of Batgirl is just as harsh as it was in the original comic, as is Commissioner Gordon's (voiced by Ray Wise), so the film doesn't shy away from recreating the graphic novel's more uncomfortable moments. Though, the scene in which Joker tries to drive Gordon insane using pictures of a wounded, nude Barbara is turned into a full-on musical number, which might alienate purists, even if Hamill makes the bizarre experience very entertaining. The film ends on an appropriately enigmatic final shot and a more upbeat, if unnecessary, short epilogue teasing Batgirl's new life as Batman's aid Oracle.
Many have criticised The Killing Joke over the years, including Alan Moore himself, but this remains a fascinating, dark-as-night piece of comic-book lore. The film is flawed but the good parts are still really good and the voice acting is reliably perfect so I would still definitely recommend it. Maybe go ahead and skip the prologue, though.