By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man to lunacy. That’s how far the world is where I am. Just one bad day.”- The Joker, The Killing Joke (1988)
The Clown Prince of Crime uttered that offensive line to his arch-rival, Batman, in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 controversial graphic novel where the Joker crippled Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and was almost successful in driving her father and Batman’s trusted ally, Commissioner James Gordon, to the brink of insanity.
This explicit and haunting storyline not only redefined the antagonistic relationship between the two iconic adversaries but also started a trend in the comic book industry where superhero adventures became much more mature and grimmer than their Golden Age and early Silver Age predecessors.
For years, the DC Comics fanbase have begged for Warner Bros. Animation to adapt this classic story to either a live action or animation full-length feature film. Fans’ dreams came true when on July 10, 2015, veteran animator and celebratory Batman creator Bruce Timm announced to a packed panel at San Diego Comic-Con that he would bring the graphic novel to life.
Other Batman veterans who joined the project included longtime voice actors Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong. The trio has voiced Batman, Joker, and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) respectively for over 20 years and many fans consider them to be the most recognizable voices of the pop culture icons.
Warning! Spoilers are ahead.
Batman: The Killing Joke focuses on two tales: Batgirl’s final adventure and Joker’s origin story. The first half of the movie showcases Batgirl’s last caper with the Caped Crusader and how a gangster named Paris Franz was instrumental in Barbara Gordon’s decision to hang up the cowl. We also saw Barbara hysterically link her relationship with Batman with yoga to one of her Gotham City Public Library employees. Fans might scratch their heads with the Batgirl-Batman sex scene near the first story arc’s crescendo, but for longtime DC Animated Universe fans who have seen Batman Beyond, we all knew it was coming.
The second half is the classic Killing Joke story that fans have been waiting for. From Batman’s monologue with “The Joker” in Arkham and the shooting that changed the Batman family forever to the flashbacks of how one failed comedian’s bad day transformed him into one of the most monstrous members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, this story arc stayed true to the Alan Moore-Brian Bolland story.
End of spoilers!
Warner Bros. Animation did an impeccable job bringing Batman: The Killing Joke to life. Fans will be impressed with Warner Bros. Animation’s fantastic ability to blend the legendary artwork of both Brian Boland and veteran Batman illustrator Kevin Nowlan with elements of Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series. This particular combination not only celebrates Batman’s pop culture legacy, but also makes Batman: The Killing Joke a visually satisfying movie.
Comic book scribe Brian Azzarello, who is one of the few creators who wrote the famed DC Comics’ Trinity (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman), wrote the screenplay for this adventure. He brilliantly brought Alan Moore’s gritty Gotham to life and was able to balance both Batgirl’s final adventure and the epic Batman-Joker confrontation years in the making. Azzarello and company also provided many Easter eggs from a Two-Face cameo to the Joker’s “greatest hits” from his 75-year history on the Batcave’s bat-computer.
Finally, the voice cast did a phenomenal job! Kevin Conroy continues to prove why he is one of the greatest voice actors to voice the Caped Crusader, while Tara Strong did not miss a beat and transported viewers back to 1997, when she first voiced Barbara Gordon in The New Batman Adventures. Last but certainly not least, Mark Hamill was on point and gave the darkest shade of Joker we have seen seen Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and the Batman: Arkham video game series. Viewers will get chills listening to Hamill’s interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime’s haunting monologues and finally get to hear him sing “Loony, Loony.”
Final thoughts & grade: Batman: The Killing Joke does not disappoint and lives up to be one of the best Batman animated films in years. This film is a must see for mature Batman and DC Comics fans. A