One of Batman’s most loved and well recognized graphic novel, The Killing Joke, is put to the ultimate test with a feature length animated movie. As a massive Batman fan, I have read The Killing Joke numerous times; it is one of my favorite Batman/Joker stories. So imagine my surprise when I realized the film ultimately falls short.
To start with the positives, by far one of the best parts of the film are Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker. The scenes they are in are great as always and a lot of the dialogue between the two are straight from the comic. The story group and the animation do a fantastic job at recreating certain panels and transitioning them to a scene, that builds the same tension and suspense as the original graphic novel. Whenever a film is adapting something from another form of media, there will always be changes, but those changes should improve on the overall story. There were some minor scenes that were new to the story that fit well, but again, those were the minor scenes.
Where the film falls short were the major scenes that added the story of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. They give her a backstory, which is fine, it was something I was open to the idea of, but they executed her story very poorly. In fact, I found myself bored and uninterested in her story. She’s practically a sex object, with a mob boss who is infatuated with her, Batman who is overly protective of her, so much so that he tells her to back off a case, which leads them to have sex on a rooftop… And Batman never even bothers to call back… So many things were wrong with that scene, Batman is basically treating her like a child and the two of them having sex was just so bizarre. It feels out of character and was unnecessarily melodramatic. I can understand that the filmmaker wanted to add more scenes of Barbara to give us a bigger emotional impact, when she did get shot by the Joker, but it was executed poorly.
The narrative is another issue, because the 1st act is about building this character, by creating her own separate story, that has NOTHING to do with the overall story. The Killing Joke is a story about Joker trying to prove to Batman that the average person is just like him. It just takes one bad day, one moment to make you snap, to make you fall into an abyss that is madness. While Batman is trying to prove that his way, the right way, works and that no one can fall into insanity so easily. The relationship between the two characters is iconic and as previously mentioned, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill do a great job and bring these characters to life. When the film is actually adapting the graphic novel, that’s where things really took off.
The film accomplishes bringing the original story to life; the scenes that were exactly from the graphic novel were great! The story probably would’ve been much more suited if it were a short 40-45 minute film, focusing mainly on Batman and Joker. Even with a meandering narrative and an unnecessary 1st act, once you get to the main story, you get a good adaptation.