Aug 10, 2016

[Movies] Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

I have a pretty healthy appreciation for Batman stories and one of the big ones is definitely The Killing Joke. But it's also one of those stories that is so beloved that any effort to tackle it is tricky. One of the more controversial aspects of the DC Comics New 52 reboot a few years back involved messing with some of the continuity aspects established by this story.

So yeah, I was part of the group that was excited about an animated adaptation of The Killing Joke given they had reunited most of the core team that drove the wildly popular Batman: The Animated Series back in the day. So how could you go wrong with such a great and already well-loved team, right?

But of course, some creative liberties were taken with the source material, as has been the habit for many of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies in order to make the source material somehow more appropriate for the audiovisual medium that is the full-length movie. But in this case, some of the changes felt more distracting that they needed to be so much so that it somewhat tainted the rest of the narrative.

Synopsis: Batman: The Killing Joke is an animated Batman movie as the 26th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. The movie was directed by Sam Liu with a screenplay by Brian Azzarello as based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. Bruce Timm was also on board as executive producer.

The movie begins with a bit about Batgirl (Tara Strong) as she fights alongside Batman (Kevin Conroy) as he works to solve various cases. She becomes the subject of a smaller gang leader known as Paris Franz (Maury Sterling), to the point where Batman becomes concerned for her safety since Franz is obviously pushing her buttons. This mixes with her own feelings about the thrill of pursuing criminals mixed with a bit of a flirtation with Batman itself. Eventually the story goes back to the original story in the comic starting with the escape of the Joker (Mark Hamill)

What I Liked: Once again animation quality for the series was quite impressive and a lot of iconic moments from the comic were quite beautifully recreated on the screen. Fight scenes were also great, which is consistent with recent animated efforts focused on the Batman family. And I really applaud realistic animated fight sequences.

Combine iconic comic book panels with great voice actors and you do have quite the memorable animated feature. Let's face it, Kevin Conroy will always be the voice of Batman and the same goes for Mark Hamill as the Joker.  So I was totally okay with the latter half of the movie as it hit all the right notes and much of the feels.

What Could Have Been Better: Okay, the little "enhancement" of a new Batgirl mini-story before the events of the comic was just wrong. Whether or not you believe the explanation that Batgirl was addicted to the thrill of crime-fighting and not a powerful schoolgirl crush on Batman itself is definitely a messy area. Then throw in the fact that *SPOILER ALERT* she ends up sleeping with Batman on some random rooftop all felt terribly out of character for both of them. Why they thought this was a good idea was a little beyond me and I don't see what value it was supposed to add to the rest of the movie.

Some may argue it's a little thing and I shouldn't let it bother me, but felt it took away from Barbara Gordon's story as she became another girl trying to get the attention or approval of a one-way romantic interest. And that's just sad given what a powerful creature she really is.

TL;DR: Batman: The Killing Joke is still a good adaptation of the original comic, provided you skip over the extraneous material added into the mix of things. There's a lot to be loved in the core movie but the first part really leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Thus the movie gets 3 creepy Batgirl-Batman moments out of a possible 5.

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