I know I’m a bit late, but I just recently read Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and saw exactly why fans love it so much. It was a dark but awesome look into the Joker and one of the many ways he became the clown prince of crime. So when I heard the DC Animated Universe was going to make an animated adaptation with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their iconic roles, I was too thrilled. While I am glad to have watched Batman: The Killing Joke on Blu-ray, there’s a few things that keep it from being the masterpiece it could’ve been, and makes one see why Alan Moore hates adaptations of his projects.
Thanks in part to social justice and political things going on in the world, they’ve managed to work their way into this movie as a fifteen minute prologue to the actual story. Here we get an inside look into the relationship Batgirl (with Tara Strong reprising her role from the series) and Batman (Kevin Conroy) had prior to the events of The Killing Joke. I won’t get into it here, but anyone who watches will see that while it is an interesting little story, it really wasn’t needed and feels very tacked on. Getting to the real story, it has the Joker (played to perfection as always by Mark Hamill) trying to push Commissioner Gordon (Ray Wise) to the edge by making him have a “bad day” like he did which led to him becoming the Joker and proving to Batman that anyone can go crazy given the right circumstances. It falls to Batman to rescue Gordon from being kidnapped by the Joker and to finally figuring out the purpose of their long feud while hopefully putting an end to it.
I didn’t want to go too much into the story as not to spoil anything for those unfamiliar with it. Those who know of the story can expect a nearly a shot-for-shot, word-for-word retelling of the comic book in animated form. It was pretty cool seeing how the Joker was before, when he was a stand up comic with a pregnant wife who loved him. The events that follow are pretty messed up, but even more messed up is the so-so production that went into the making of this film. While the visuals look clean in high definition, the animation and artwork comes across as mediocre as you watch, bordering on flash-made animation. While Mark Hamill is perfect as the Joker, Kevin Conroy’s performance of Batman sounds off, as it’s lacking the intensity he usually throws into it. This along with the prologue brings down the overall experience and makes it decent at best and a slight mess at worse.
There’s a few special features to check out after the film, such as featurettes going behind the scenes of making the crazy musical number the Joker performs in the film and bringing the classic comic book story to life in this movie. There’s also two episodes from the animated Batman series that are Joker-themed as well a look at the next DCAU movie, Justice League Dark.
I did enjoy watching Batman: The Killing Joke for the most part, but I couldn’t help but feel it could’ve been better and so much more had they stuck to the original comic book story without adding stuff to it, and ramping up the production values a bit. It’s also the first DCAU movie to be rated R, but it could’ve easily been a hard PG-13 as nothing really pushes the R rating. Again, most will find this hit or miss, but check it out and see if the punchline is good or if this is a killer joke.