The highly anticipated movie adaptation of one of the most beloved graphic novels of all time is finally released in the form of Batman: The Killing Joke. The 1988 graphic novel was so popular and still is, that this film got a one-night theatrical release to the public. Not to mention, it’s the first DC animated film to receive an “R” rating! So how did it shake out? Let’s break down The Killing Joke.
Batman: The Killing Joke is directed by Sam Liu and features, in my opinion, two of the best voice actors to ever stepped in front of a mic, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. From the original novel, Batman (Conroy) is on the hunt for The Joker (Hamill) who’s escaped from the Asylum once again, but this time to prove a point: that anyone can be driven into insanity with just one bad day.
I’m a huge Batman fanboy and I’m proud of it. I’m a big fan of the classic, The Killing Joke novel written by Alan Moore, I’ve read it many times and it’s still a great read. I’m also a fan of the Batman Animated Series, the show where I was first exposed to the talents of Conroy & Hamill. Needless to say, I was very hyped for this film. With that said, there are things that I really loved about this animated adaptation. However and sadly, there are things that I really didn’t like about it.
Let’s start with the obvious good from this adaptation. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill did a fantastic job with their voice work. Whenever I’m reading a comic featuring Batman & Joker, I instinctively put their voices in my head and imagine that’s how they would sound when they talk. Hearing their voices once again coming out of these iconic characters in this film is awesome and very nostalgic.
What’s also a joy to see transitioned into this film is the shot-for-shot artwork and animation that is perfectly captured from the original graphic novel. It looks like it’s ripped straight from the panels of the comic and even a lot of the dialogue is straight from the novel as well. It’s a great homage to the legendary comic.
What didn’t work for me the most was this movie’s entire first act. The first act is completely dedicated to fleshing out the character of Barbara Gordan AKA Batgirl. The writers added a brand new story arc for Barbara, giving the audience a reason to be invested in her character for the continuing story and for what ultimately happens to her. Now I’m not opposed to adding new material to an already established story, but only if it serves a purpose to the rest of the movie. The first 35-40 minutes of this film are just completely unnecessary and feels like a different movie than the one I was expecting.
The beginning of this film could’ve literally been erased and audience wouldn’t miss a thing. I don’t think what they added is necessarily bad, but it’s not that compelling or interesting either. In all honesty, it’s just a slow burner. I could’ve easily seen this film be like a 45-50 minute intense thriller and I would’ve been cool with that since the actual Killing Joke novel is a fairly quick read.
When it comes down to it, this film should’ve been so much more tightly constructed for an adaptation from such a great novel. New scenes that were added didn’t do anything for the plot going forward and left me a little confused at certain times. However, I do recommend checking it out if you’re a hardcore Batman fan because it is very faithful to its original source material and those parts are great to see.
I’m going to give Batman: The Killing Joke a “B-” on the movie grading scale. In some ways for me personally, it’s kind of a let down because of all the hype surrounding the film, but the Batman & Joker elements are a must for any true Batman fan.
As always, thanks so much for reading and make sure to stay posted to Frank’s Takes for more reviews. Until next time, keep it 100.