This is one of those times where I need to restrain myself on being a fanboy. The first 30 minutes of “The Killing Joke” is everything wrong with “Batman v. Superman,” while the latter 30 is everything great about the Batman mythology.
“The Killing Joke” is an adaptation of Alan Moore’s brilliant graphic novel. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and The Joker (Mark Hamill) have their ultimate standoff after The Joker goes too far with his latest crime. We finally understand why they won’t kill each other while seeing an origin story of The Joker.
“The Killing Joke” has a lot of hype since it’s Hamill’s last appearance as The Joker, an adaptation of what’s considered one of the greatest graphic novels, and the first R-rated DC-animated film. Does it live up to the hype? Eh, yes and no.
HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD! STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS!
The opening 30 minutes is a prologue that focuses on Batman’s relationship with Batgirl (Tara Strong), as they’re hunting for a psychotic criminal named Paris (Maury Sterling). While the action is reminiscent of the great 1992 animated series (the animation is reminiscent, as well), it’s riddled with pacing and tone inconsistencies, as well as a screenwriter’s bizarre character-shipping.
Batgirl is the object of Paris’s affection, Batgirl is also in love with Batman, and then Batman and Batgirl have a one-night stand after a heated argument? This is nothing but creepy since Batgirl is more like a niece to Batman. I get changes happen, but this change makes the story’s sole female character a sex object, which doesn’t fly with me.
Another issue is “Killing Joke” is Batman and Joker’s story, but with this unnecessary prologue, it should almost be Batgirl’s story entirely.
Once The Joker is introduced after the prologue, “Killing Joke” takes off. We dive into a dark, nightmarish psychological stand-off between two broken men that goes from physical, to personal, to finally an understanding.
Hamill is more subdued as The Joker this time, portraying him as more self-aware and burned out on his own crimes, which is a fascinating take. Conroy voices Batman as a broken man that feels he has nothing left but being Batman, which is heartbreaking. Strong does well as Batgirl, but again, it’s the writing that weighs down her character.
The last scene is haunting on many levels with Batman finally laughing, but it’s missing a couple key aspects that made it powerful in the comic. Overall, I’m happy to see “The Killing Joke” adapted, but this isn’t the adaptation we deserve.