Batman: The Killing Joke

Year: 2016
Director: Sam Liu
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise
Written by Tom Sheffield

When I saw that ‘The Killing Joke’ was in cinemas for one night only, I booked my ticket right away. Then, slowly but surely, a lot of mixed reviews came from all over the internet, especially after the divisive panel at San Diego Comic Con. However, I wasn’t going to let that put me off – like I can’t make up my own mind about a film without someone else giving their opinion (said the most ironic person in the room) – and I was still very excited to sit down in the cinema and watch one of my favourite graphic novels up on the big screen.

‘The Killing Joke’ introduces us to the origin of the infamous Joker, and how he became the psychotic, twisted , Clown Prince of Crime that has pushed every single one of Batman’s buttons over the 77 years he’s been around in the comics. In the graphic novel, The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum and sets out to prove to Batman that all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy”, and to prove his point he unleashes a monstrously evil plan to destroy every last bit of  Commissioner Gordon’s sanity. As The Joker’s plan unfolds, we are shown flashbacks of the events that lead up to The Joker’s “one bad day”, that would change the lives of the citizens of Gotham forever.

The film extends the original story by including scenes in the beginning that heavily focuses on Barbara Gordon and her alter-ego Batgirl. Whilst her scenes were a great addition to extend the run time of the film, I feel that Batgirl could have had better a better storyline than her just struggling to deal with her feelings for Batman. Whilst she does kick a lot of ass, I definitely feel they could have done more with her character to set up the second half of the film and give her big scene an even deeper impact.  The second half of the film comes from Batman’s perspective, where the graphic novel actually begins. From this point forward, I have nothing but praise for the film and the way it has been brought to life on the big screen. The dialogue has come straight from the speech bubbles in the comics and directly out of the mouths of the characters on-screen. What made this even better was that the scenes in the film also looked like they’d been taken straight from the panels of the graphic novel, which was incredibly pleasing as I’m a huge fan of the original material, especially the scene where The Joker removes his red hood and descends into maniacal laughter upon seeing his reflection in a puddle.

It would be criminal to talk about this film and not mention the perfect voice cast, which features the great talents of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong. Before the film started, there was a short interview with Mark Hamill in which he talked about why he loved voicing The Joker and how The Joker’s unpredictableness means he will never get bored of voicing him – and to be honest I don’t think I well ever be bored of him doing it either. Hamill has the persona of The Joker nailed, from his trademark evil laugh, right down to the sadistic and evil monologues.  Kevin Conroy and Tara Strong both give strong performances as Batman and Batgirl, and the delivery of their lines were perfect for the atmosphere of the film.

I would definitely recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of the original graphic novel, or even a fan of DC Animation films. It’s as dark and controversial as the graphic novel, with an amazing voice cast behind it and a catchy musical number. The reason for my average marking however, is due to the fact the first half of the film really did let the whole thing down for me. We could have seen a lot better based on the nature of ‘The Killing Joke’ and its dark and gritty storyline, and it would have been interesting to see the R-Rating really used to its full potential.

Tom’s rating: 6.6 out of 10
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