I'm pretty sure I fall in line with the majority of the other fan boys when I say that I was not only looking forward to this new animated film addition to the Batman anthology, but I was also thrilled when the iconic voices of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy returned to reprise their rolls. For months, we were left waiting for the final release of the screen portrayal of this classic comic. With its online streaming release, and despite its special edition DVD to come out very soon, it's safe to say that most of us have already seen the movie and fed our impatient hunger for the R rated flick(I also know a lot of us are thankful it was R rated too).
Now, if by chance you haven't seen it, I would suggest not reading much further until you have since I will discuss a great deal about it.
If by the off chance you saw it and didn't like it, or if it didn't meet your anticipations, than I believe you will agree with a lot I have to say. If you did like it or if I dare say love it than you will also appreciate what I have to say. This isn't really a review, more of a take by take outlook on what a fan may like or dislike about it.
I will say this, in the risk of the almighty comic scrutiny to be lashed out at me, I have never read this comic.
Granted, I haven't read many comics but I know the point is that I shouldn't have much to say in regards to comparing the comic to its film counterpart. But this isn't that kind of article. I'm simply pointing out what I liked and didn't like in regards to the film alone. So please, keep that in mind. And here we go.
1. The Prologue (CON)
The Killing Joke starts off with a prologue story regarding Batgirl/Barbra Gordon and Batman. It takes up a good portion of the film(being the runtime was 75 minutes and this segment takes up 28 by itself) and is meant to act as a back story to the relationship between Batman and Batgirl. The issue is that the only role Batgirl honestly plays in the scheme of things is that this is the story where she becomes paralyzed. So, why a 30 minute romp about a nothing gangster and a one night stand when you never bring her up again?
And yes, you read that correctly. Batgirl gets it on with Batman on a roof. I don't know if that is from the comic or not but that is just weird to me and a bit unnecessary.
Now this could possibly swing both ways. Some may like or dislike it but truthfully, as part of the film, I'm not sure why this took so long to tell. It was like a completely separate story that could've been done. It almost played out like an episode from the old animated series. I don't think this was a good move on the directors part.
2. The Director(PRO)
And I don't just mean 'pro'. Sam Liu, I have to admit, was definitely the right way to go for this film. If you don't recognize his name that's fine but he has played a big role in a lot of animated films and series for almost the last 20 years. Even if you argue whether The Killing Joke was good or not, Liu had to be the man for the job.
This is the guy who gave us 'Batman: Year One', 'All-Star Superman', and 'Hulk vs. Thor'. He also did a bunch for various TV shows like 'Young Justice' and 'Green Lantern: The Animated Series' so if there was ever a man for the job, I think we got lucky with Liu.
3. The Back Story(PRO & CON)
I know one of the best subjects about this story isn't just how Barbra becomes crippled but it is also the first time you are given a decent back story for the Joker. Never knowing his name or where he comes from, this film gives a slight peek into the past of one of Batman's most iconic nemesis'. I know we've seen a few portrayals of what happened to him that made him the way he is and a lot play around with what drew him into being so BATshit crazy(see what I did there).
You can give or take whether this is required for the film or whether you like this idea for the Joker's origins but I always enjoy hearing or reading new clues about the most questionable character in comic book history.
4. The Dark Setting(PRO)
Probably my favorite thing about this film is that it keeps to its dark roots. Batman is always meant to be a dark character who exists in an even darker environment. He is meant to be the light of justice but he comes off as a man to be feared. That has been the Batman MO for years and this film definitely takes the next step.
A lot of what makes Batman so appealing is its realism. Granted, it's fiction, but that's not the point. The point is that a man like the Joker can easily exist in this world and a man that can do the things that Batman does is far-fetched but not out of the limits of any normal man. This is what makes Batman likable and that small touch with the real world is what gives a lot of his mythology a greater appeal with fans.
This movie, however, takes that realism a step further. Not only does it touch base on the obvious battle between the ultimate good and the chaotic evil, but it dwells deeper into what most comics don't touch on; the real reality you can call it.
Take the Joker. Not only is it a great portrayal of the Joker himself but it shows a side of him you don't normally see. When he shoots Barbra not to kill her but to simply make a point. When he strips her down and takes photos of her naked. When he strips Jim Gordon down and makes him run through his 'Fun House' and shows him the pictures of his daughter. These take a huge step away from comic book reality and dive right into six o'clock news worthy reports. Even the little bits like when Batman is asking around about the Joker and the hookers tell him he usually likes to visit them as soon as he gets out. Little bits like that last seconds but speak volumes. Not only has it brought a subject like sex into a comic that doesn't talk about it for the most part, but it humanizes an individual character more than other story arc ever has by making him more like a regular man.
5. The random dance routine? (A BIG CON)
What in the holy hell happened? Why was this in there? Who OK'd this?
Probably the part I hated most is this random song and dance number that comes out of nowhere. Why? WHY?!
I get that it might make sense if it's meant to show him as a psychopath but there's better ways. One second, he's preaching morality and the thin line between sanity and doubt but then the next he's singing with a top hat and cane? You could've done better.
6. The Fight?(PRO)
Throughout the film, there is a deeper meaning behind what Batman is trying to do for his own sanity. He is trying to reach out to the Joker as a man and wholeheartedly fix the broken pieces of not just the Joker but also himself.
"I don't know how it will end. Either I kill you or you'll kill me." This is what he says to him. He knows that the constant struggle between them will inevitably end in one of them dying. His fight is that he is trying to avoid that from happening.
The Joker on the other hand is fighting to prove that there is insanity in all of us. One of my favorite lines is "It just takes one bad day" and it couldn't be more true. Touching both on how they both came to be the people they are and their fight against each other, that one line defines their entire lives.
And at the very end, when Batman reaches his hand out to help Joker, there is a sincere look in the Joker's face. He scoffs the gesture and replies with "It's far too late for that". His refusal is also an acknowledgement of his own mental state; he knows he is too far gone to help and he accepts it, but with his ability to come to terms with the person he is, doesn't that show that he might have the capability to change if he really wanted?
This story really touched base on so much that makes the Batman universe what it is and the epitome of that is:
7. The Joke(PRO)
This moment right here is a true defining time for the relationship between Batman and The Joker. For years, Joker has been trying to make Batman laugh in one way or another. Whether he is setting some kind of sick trap or using corny one liners, and despite ultimately wanting to hurt Batman, making Batman smile has always been something he's wanted to check off his to-do list.
This moment comes right after Batman sincerely reaches his hand out and expresses how he wants to help the Joker change his ways. Right after the moment where the Joker expresses that he is too far gone, they share a moment of silence before he tells Batman a joke about 2 inmates at an asylum. The joke itself isn't all that funny but it is the first time Batman laughs at the Joker.
Well, it's simple. In that moment, they are both ordinary people. There isn't anything crazy about the Joker and the Batman isn't a guy dressed in a suit that fights crime. After a serious exchange of outstretched hope for their future, Batman put aside his vigilante status. After denying assistance and accepting his own fate, the Joker put aside his psychotic thoughts and became a regular man for a moment. This is the moment, maybe for the first time or the last, that they weren't Batman and the Joker but just men.
Hope you enjoyed reading. As always, all feedback is welcomed.