The Killing Joke by Alan Moore is called by many the greatest Joker story of them all. It also has the honor of being known as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It has influenced portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime, such as in The Dark Knight. An animated adaption was always highly wanted, and finally this year it has seen release. There are a few things stopping this from being the masterpiece the comic was. Still, while not being a perfect adaption, it’s a very good watch starting after the 30 minute mark.
From executive producer Bruce Timm and based on the acclaimed DC Comics graphic novel, take a journey into the dark psyche of the Clown Prince of Crime. Follow his humble beginnings as a struggling comic to the fateful encounter with the Dark Knight that changed everything. Now escaped from Arkham Asylum, The Joker sets out to prove that one bad day can make anyone just as insane as he is. With his sights set on Commissioner Gordon, can Batman stop The Joker’s demented plan in time? With a gripping prologue spotlighting Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and featuring the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker and Tara Strong as Batgirl, witness the birth of a super villain, the fortitude of a hero and the punchline that will leave you speechless
Apparently, the content in the graphic novel would have translated to a very short film. To compensate for this, the movie added a 31 minute intro starring Batgirl. This unfortunately was the film’s biggest mistake. The intro adds absolutely nothing to the story. About 15 minutes in and the viewer is wondering if he/she is seeing the wrong film. It would have been far better and more powerful for it to start just like how the comic began: with Batman arriving at Arkham Asylum only to discover that his adversary had escaped. By the time we get to that scene the viewer has grown tired of the proceedings.
The main problem is that the intro feels completely disjointed with the rest of the film. (Not to mention it lasts almost half the run-time in a story that’s supposed to be about the Joker.) Paris Franz, a made up character, is given a lot to do and made out to be someone important. After the intro he’s never seen again. What’s worst is the controversial romance between Batman and Batgirl. This comes right out of the blue and is truly unnecessary. They have never been a couple in the comics, (not to mention that Batman’s relationship with her there has always been one of mentor/parental) so I’m not sure why it was added here. Really, most of Batgirl/Barbara’s scenes in the first 30 minutes were painful to get through.
After the beginning is when the story finally starts to adapt the graphic novel. From here the viewer starts to become focused and engaged as Mark Hamill steals the show as Joker. Just about all his lines are lifted straight from the comic, and translate well onto the silver screen. If you’ve read the story, then you know exactly what to expect. The plot here is about the Joker attempting “to prove a point,” and that’s that anyone can go insane like him because of “one bad day.” The dialogue is excellent and provides a nice look into the head of the madman.
Of course, perhaps the most well known aspect of the graphic novel is that it served as an origin story for the Joker. (Or at the very least, a possible origin.) The flashbacks in the film are lifted straight from the pages. It’s surreal seeing them come to life. They are fascinating to watch, because very few pieces of media have provided a look at the Clown’s past. Most of Batman’s dialogue is lifted straight from the comic as well, so there aren’t really any negatives to be stated here. Like I said earlier, after the intro the story adapts the graphic novel almost word-for-word. Batman’s encounter with Joker in the climax was epically engaging as the two go back and fourth in blows & dialogue. It’s tempting to call this their best encounter in animation, but it very well might be. The soundtrack is pretty standard. There are no qualms about it, nor does it stand out. Maybe that was the point, to make sure the music is in the background so it doesn’t distract from the film.
Overall, The Killing Joke adaption isn’t fantastic, but still very good. The beginning sadly takes the viewer out of it with a lot of bad dialogue and a jarring romance between Batman and Batgirl. This wasn’t needed, and I would personally say a shorter movie cutting that out would have been better. The actual adaption of the story is very solid. It isn’t quite as powerful as the source material, but does an admirable job bringing it to life. Unfortunately, the controversial ending is even more confusing than the comic’s and leaves the viewer feeling slightly unfulfilled.