As always, these mini reviews will be as spoiler free as possible, we do not like to assume that just because we have seen or read something that means everyone has.
The Killing Joke was a seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland published in 1988, winning the Eisner Award in 1989. It is regarded as one of the best Batman stories ever written. Even though Moore and Bolland envisioned it only as a “possible timeline” for the characters involved, a lot of the sequences in the book have had long term repercussions on the canon DC universe.
Long thought of as having subject matter too controversial to adapt into any other mass media format, the idea for a movie adaptation has been kicking around since before Mark Hamill implored fans to lobby for the film to be made with himself reprising the role of Joker in 2011. There is a nice prelude piece that was shown before the movie giving a brief bio of Hamill and his path to becoming the Joker for the Batman Animated series. It has some great behind the scenes footage of Mark recording his lines in the studio, and some of his creative thought process in choosing his delivery. It would have been nice to see the other voice actors, especially Kevin Conroy and Tara Strong, represented in the documentary, but it was still a great insight into how the voice acting is captured.
While The Killing Joke movie follows the source material closely (sometimes word for word) the animation style left something to be desired for me. Clearly trying to imitate Bolland’s detail heavy illustration style was something deemed to difficult to do, I would have liked to see them take at least a grittier, or less traditional approach to the animation and character design. There were some scenes that looked downright rushed, with the characters proportions being off, for example Batgirl’s eyes seemed so off at the beginning I couldn’t help but notice it every time it happened throughout the film. This was even more surprising considering most of the animation was done by Japanese seasoned studio artists. Some scenes were done well enough, but a big part of the attraction of the original graphic novel for me was the lush and wonderfully detailed art by Brian Bolland. Not seeing the same care used in the execution of the animation was disappointing.
The pacing was tight and the story beat a deliberate path to the now famous ending. For those of you not 100% familiar with the story, the ending takes a little while to sink in, so don’t be surprised if you are initially a bit disappointed. Understanding Alan Moore’s intention of showing Batman and Joker as two sides of the same coin, similar in as many ways as they are different is poetically demonstrated by the ending. The whole story is much more about why Joker is the way he is…everyone knows Batman’s origin, this was a window into what could drive a mind into the place where a person becomes the Joker. I think that Joker is every bit as lonely as Batman, and part of his motivation in trying to drive Commissioner Gordon insane may well be to have some company in crazy town. Tara Strong’s Batgirl was just as riveting as it was in the original animated series. Nice to see she hasn’t skipped a beat in the years that have past. Kevin Conroy was, of course, Kevin Conroy!
We gathered a good sized group to go see it in a theater, taking up an entire row, so all in all it was a great night. Special thanks to Michelle for organizing the night 🙂 The general consensus was thumbs up for adhering to the source material so closely and the two short documentaries included were very enjoyable. You do NOT have to read anything before seeing this movie, it stands alone as relevant entertainment without any additional background story needed. You can still get something more out of reading the graphic novel afterwards as there are additional details that were glazed over in the movie adaptation, and then there is of course the gorgeous Bolland art to take in 🙂
Alan Moore & Brian Bolland (original story) Brian Azzarello (adapted screenplay)