For the uninitiated, when it was announced late last year that a Killing Joke animated movie was coming out this summer there was enough reason to be happy and thrilled. After all DC’s track record of animated movies is unrivalled not to mention the fact that Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy were returning to voice the roles fans have become accustomed to as the definitive Joker and Batman over the last two decades.
For the initiated however, there was cause for alarm bells because we all know the fate of Barbara Gordon in the 1988 strip by Alan Moore and the controversy it caused. This of course wasn’t a concern for Warner Bros. at the time. They had Batman vs Superman coming out in March, The Killing Joke movie late July and Suicide Squad at the start of August.
It seems very calculated until you realise the colossal mess BvS was and yet another controversy the animated version of Killing Joke has stirred up.
Before the movie came out, it was reported via EW that The Killing Joke added a sex scene between the aforementioned Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl and Batman. There is so much wrong with this that before you try to understand why this was done you have to try and understand why it was needed before trying to understand why almost half of the movie focused on Barbara as Batgirl in her crime fighting days before she ultimately meets her fate at the hands of Joker.
I for one, I’m not of the claim that Moore’s story was misogynistic, vile or whatever arguments people would have you believe. Mind you there were protests for this movie not to be made citing the “mistreatment of female characters” something I’m sure DC listened to, came up with a brilliant idea (they thought…) and made things worse.
We see Barbara kicking ass with
Batfleck Batman in the beginning while at the same time looking for Batman’s seal of approval and trying to get him in her batpants. DC tried and failed to show us that she was her own person, strong-willed etc. What they showed us instead was that she was a needy teenage girl, drooling over a man twice her age and generally making audiences feel uncomfortable. In short, what they showed us was that Batman loves the Joker more than Barbara.
Killing Joke was a short comic and there was no way they could turn probably fourty minutes of story into film so the idea was Barbara’s back story would take up some time while also giving her a more fleshed out, grinded look before the inevitable – but what we got instead was a poor Joker rip-off (if we can call it that since they’re technically ripping off themselves) as Batgirl’s villain whose name is “Paris France Francesco” yes, that’s PARIS FRANCE lol kill me please.
Like I said before I wasn’t of the notion that the comic was filled with misogyny but with the way the movie needlessly portrayed Barbara this time, I can’t help but feel it was a terrible and unwise judgement from DC. I would love to think Geoff Johns was not part of this movie if not his tenure as President of DC films would have kicked off in the worst way possible.
Now unto the star attraction…Joker. This for me is the best piece of work Mark Hamill has done as the Joker since his debut in 1992. It goes without saying that he has been great all through the years but this was on another level almost like he took it personal just like what the Killing Joke is all about. When you pick up a Joker comic you always read it using Hamill’s voice. When I read the Killing Joke back then I did the same thing but never in all my life did I think this is how it’d turn out. Joker was scary, intimidating, smart, and basically everything we’ve come to know him for, only this time it was better than before. To be honest I didn’t really think his voice would be anything different from his previous work but he really outdid himself and so did Kevin Conroy.
Conroy’s portrayal in this was perfection…again the best I’ve seen from him bar the Arkham Knight game. Specifically THAT game. Again he didn’t do anything different from what Batman would usually do….except…never mind. But this Batman was the meanest, broodiest, cold, batman you’d ever see in animation and probably live action. He was great. Taking nothing away from Batfleck and Leto you almost wish these guys were the one’s playing Joker and Batman in the movies.
Tara Strong as she’s always been in anything she’s done was awesome but the voice of Commissioner Gordon wasn’t to be fair.
Joker’s backstory was as deep and as sad as it was in the comics only this time you could actually hear and watch him grieve as he struggles to provide for his wife and unborn child. He’s a failed comedian who left his paying job to make people laugh; a sad joke on his part. After learning his wife and baby die from an accident he loses all purpose in life gets to ACE chemicals as red hood que manic laugh from Joker.
After watching the ending again, I still don’t get that joke. Is it meant to be funny? or is Joker implying that he and batman are crazy because they were both in an asylum? What does it mean by the first guy shinning his flashlight to show the other guy the way across? Is this meant to tell us what Batman was trying to do by helping rehabilitate him,he’s therefore “shining his light”? I don’t know. However in 2013 comic book writer, Grant Morrison had this to say about the ending via Batman wiki “No one gets the end, because Batman kills The Joker. That’s why it’s called The Killing Joke. The Joker tells the ‘Killing Joke’ at the end, Batman reaches out and breaks his neck, and that’s why the laughter stops and the light goes out, ’cause that was the last chance at crossing that bridge. And Alan Moore wrote the ultimate Batman/Joker story… he finished it.” Can’t argue with that theory to be honest.
Killing Joke is still a great story. You just have to look at the impact it’s had on modern media. From Tim Burton using it as reference for his Batman movie to Christopher Nolan taking Joker’s preferred multiple choice origins as inspiration for Heath Ledger’s own origin to the video games and tons of animated work in the past and certainly the future. So this mishap won’t harm it’s legacy in any way.
I have to say this was another great animation for the folks at Warner Bros. and if not for the Batgirl controversy, it could easily have been in my top 5 animated DC movies. Here’s hoping the upcoming Justice League:Dark adaptation is so good it finally gets that movie.