There’s a scant few things that would pull me out of retirement on kinja. This is one of them. Almost 30 years after the initial The Killing Joke series print, comes (Finally) a film version, with part of the cast of the animated series reclaiming their roles (Conroy and Hamill are the big ticket names here.) So, Is it any good? (Spoilers follow)
If you’re a fan of Batman, you should still probably watch it. I say probably because a solid majority of fans consider Alan Moore’s short story to be a classic, and as close to a Joker origin story as we’ll ever get. That said, it’s not 100% to the source material.
And I mean A LOT. The first 28 minutes of this 1 hr, 16 minute run time is devoted to a Batgirl storyline that you’d think would tie into main attraction. Those ties are loose at best. Not to say that the Batgirl portion isn’t entertaining in parts, but it’s super cringy, and doesn’t fit into the overall arc that the book set up all those years ago.
What’s so cringe worthy?
No, I’m not kidding. It’s awkward, and kind of creepy. Batgirl tears off her costume while straddling Bats and.... well, of course, you see nothing, but ugh. It’ll take awhile before I get that disturbing thought out of my head. It comes across as bad fanfiction, or a rule 34 situation. It adds nothing but flimsy “tension” during the Batgirl portion of the flick. It would’ve been better than have The Killing Joke be a strictly retelling of the book, rather than stumble with this miss of an opening act. It almost robs the violence against Batgirl of its power, rather than adding to it by raising the stakes for Batman. But I digress. Apparently they thought to give Batgirl “needs” that.... well, the character didn’t need. Especially with the secondary father figure Bruce really is.
The problem with the animated variant is that it takes so many liberties with dialogue, direction and even scene flow to a point that it seems they aimed to make it almost a different take on the story. Laced throughout the tale, is bits and pieces of Joker’s origins, as illustrated in his own faded memories. And at first, it works. Joker’s a bad comedian, a loser, an expectant father. This is where they hit where they needed to and it’s done very well, especially with the grays and pinks turning into darker shades of red as we progress through the mini arc. The big reveal doesn’t quite have the oomph that the book does, but then again, we all knew what the Joker looked like, so it’s not a total shock. It’s serviceable but yeah. Lacking. Aside from the origins, The infamous shooting from the book is done very well here. It’s easily one of the most memorable points of the story, and it’s stellar and chilling and a great instance where Hamill captures the malevolent force that is the Joker in this flick. This is where the movie peaks. After these points, it’s all kind of downhill from here. Sure, the musical number (yes, joker sings) is fine, but it’s nothing spectacular. The entire thing unravels quite a bit as a fan who read The Killing Joke cover to cover, several times over. As the Story progresses to its crescendo, Joker stops being the tragic figure he was in the book.
This is what I signed up for. The facade of the Joker starting to peel away, where we get to see the human side show just a tiny bit. What we got.... Was anger. The dialogue of these scene was word for word, but the delivery from Hamill and the direction was.... just wrong. And it pisses me off. It’s an insult to the source material, it takes what was a special, rare moment of clarity and earnest feeling and just turns it into more psychopathic rambling from our favorite clown prince of crime. God. Dammit. I could’ve easily had recommended the film, even despite Batgirl on Batman if Hamill and the directors recaptured this moment correctly. As it stands, it just annoys me. It doesn’t get much better, as the story winds down with Batman almost pleading with the Joker to let him help, only to be denied, but ending the story with a joke. The joke’s delivery in both differ, in which the book has Joker stumbling and stuttering through the lines of the joke, barely nailing the punchline. Another great, human moment for one of the most monstrous of comic book foes.
God. This page gives me feels for days. You get none of that in the movie. Joker tells the joke well, and quickly at that. I’m uncertain of whether it was Hamill or the director to blame, but jesus. They took everything that I loved, and more or less shit all over it. I’m so disappointed. By and large, most Joker stories have something special going for them. This retelling, is not one of them. Do yourself a favor. Pick up a copy of the hardcover for 10 bucks on amazon. Read it, and be amazed at the artwork, nuances, and genuine love that went into writing this stellar run. I promise you, I PROMISE YOU, if you’re any kind of fan of the Joker, you won’t be disappointed. Avoid the movie at all costs.