“All it takes is one bad day.”
Despite the odd bad egg, DC’s animated films have a pretty solid track record. Whilst people enjoy them, there’s one many have been eagerly waiting for; The Killing Joke.
Based off the near universally praised graphic novel, it focuses on The Joker’s escape from Arkham and his subsequent attack on the Gordon family. Shooting and paralysing Barbara, he then captures Jim for a trip into madness, whilst Batman tries to hunt him down.
Before I get back to that – interesting – part of TKJ, let’s talk about the film’s biggest flaw – the prologue. The graphic novel is in fact only 48 pages long, so a prologue to flesh out some of the story makes a lot of sense. What doesn’t make a lot of sense is turning Batman and Batgirl into an angsty couple. In the first half hour, we’re introduced to Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, fighting crime alongside The Dark Knight. Instead of emphasising the friendship between the pair, we’re taken down a rather odd, misplaced romantic route. Eventually leading to the pair having sex on a rooftop, one has to wonder why the writer’s decided to go for this.
Batgirl may not have had enough impact as a female lead in the graphic novel, but all the film does is add insult to injury. There’s a scene where Batgirl phones Batman after they’ve had sex, which feels ripped straight out a teen rom-com. Your interest starts to fade, and I guarantee this’ll be the point you’ll have a look at your phone. Also, it’s way too long. I would have rather had an hour long film, that had a smaller prologue. But as soon as you get past the beginning, boy oh boy are you in for a treat.
One of the strongest adaptations in recent memory, so many scenes feel ripped straight out the novel – which is a good thing. There’s a reason it’s often described as the best Batman/Joker story ever told. As well as The Joker being, well, the Joker, we also get an insight into his rather tragic origin story. Not to completely spoil it, but I never thought I’d feel any sympathy for the character until now.
Now the Joker isn’t just doing all this harm and torture for the sake of it. He says it himself: “To prove a point”. He wants to prove that everyone in the world is just one bad day from being him, especially Batman. He tries his best to surround Commissioner Gordon in madness, hoping he’ll succumb and go mad. But of course he doesn’t. In fact, when Batman finds Gordon, he emphasises that he wants the Joker caught “by the book” to show him “our way works”.
This is a thrilling and emotionally engaging story, showing you a different side of Batman and The Joker’s twisted friendship. Kevin Conroy is excellent as Batman, showing us once again he is the definitive Dark Knight. Mark Hamill is tremendous in his role however, and although you can tell he’s struggling with the voice a bit, he puts in a superb performance. Bravo, Mr J.
Despite the flaws in the story, Tara Strong makes a great Batgirl. Without Strong, I feel the Batman/Batgirl story would have struggled even further.
To sum it up…
For someone who hasn’t read The Killing Joke, or many graphic novels for that matter, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Whilst the flaws in the prologue leave a sour taste in your mouth, the rest of the film should sweeten it. In fact, it’s convinced me to read the graphic novel.
Let me know what you think in the comments below or send a tweet to @film_swot, or check out our Facebook page!
Author: Cameron Frew