After much debate, the highly controversial story created by Alan Moore has finally been brought to the silver screen, for better or worse. It is one of the most infamous Batman storylines, as it attempts to create an origin story for the hero’s greatest villain, the Joker. This was the first DC Animated movie to receive an R-rating, since the story has many dark undertones and themes.
The first act of the film follows the duo Batman and Batgirl as their relationship develops prior to the events of The Killing Joke. In an interesting, if anything, turn of events, this story displays a Batgirl who has developed romantic feelings for the Dark Knight, although he is closer to her father’s age. At any rate, this story is used to convey who Batgirl is and to get the audience invested in her character before her crippling by the Joker. We see a smart, ambitious, funny, and bright young woman who still does this for “fun”, as Bruce puts it. She hasn’t seen the abyss yet and had to come back from experiencing a dark and personal enemy. She soon encounters that in Paris Franz and understands more about Batman and job in the process. Ultimately, she decides to hang up the cape and cowl, after she becomes romantically involved with Batman and her dangerous battle with Paris.
The story then follows the TKJ arc and we see the panels come to life on screen. At first glance, it’s another story following the Joker’s escape from Arkham and Batman’s hunt to find him before he does anything too bad. Batman realizes the path that they’re on will only lead to his or the Joker’s death. They complement each other and represent two sides of a coin. Batman knows this dance can only truly end when one of the dies so he makes one last effort to avert that outcome. However, Joker takes it to another level this time, hoping to prove that anyone can go insane after one bad day. Choosing one of the Gotham’s finest, Jim Gordon, the Clown Prince pays the Commissioner a visit, shoots and cripples Barbara, sexually assaults her, and later tortures Gordon with the slideshow of events. All the while, Batman is searching for clues and making the rounds to discover what the Joker is planning and where he’s located. In the end, the Joker fails, as Gordon remains sane and Batman brings the Joker in by the book, proving that they can overcome the tragedy one can experience in a day.
Mark Hamill does a great job balancing the present day chaotic Joker with his failed comedian persona of the past. Kevin Conroy is excellent as the Dark Knight once again and the familiarity of his voice along with Tara Strong, really make this film worth watching. Bruce Timm and Sam Liu make use of the R-rating and show everything from drug use, prostitutes, city corruption, brutal deaths, and pretty explicit sexual innuendos. Some have gripes with the dialogue, which was torn straight from the page. It can come off as cheesy and comical and the ending with Batman laughing maniacally with the Joker is just plain odd to hear. Many still have issues with Barbara being objectified and only serving as a plot device to motivate Batman, regardless of how much they tried to develop her character in the prologue.
Batman: The Killing Joke is available now digitally and will be on DVD August 2nd.