Film Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

joke poster

Batman: The Killing Joke Plot Summary:

As Batman (Kevin Conroy) hunts for the escaped Joker (Mark Hamill), the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

All it took was One Bay Day to create the Joker…and write the terrible backstory that is Batgirl in this film.

While The Killing Joke has become one of the most famous and infamous Batman comics, featuring a now widely used Joker backstory, it should have been a no brainer to turn this masterpiece into a cinematic delight for all fans to behold.  However, that may not exactly be the case with this film.

While the film is truly something great when it comes to actually following the source material, becoming an almost shot for shot replica of the comic, and adding what many believe to be the best Joker voice in the business, Mr. Mark Hamill, it really lacks when the writers take a bit of creative freedom a tad too far.  When being faithful to the comics, the film gives fans exactly what they want, which is a faithful adaption of the comic they all hold so near and dear, but the writers may have missed the mark when they decided to take the one criticism about the comic and try to fix it.

joke pic 1 Many know the story of Batgirl from this comic, where the Joker unfortunately paralyzes her in an attempt to torture her father, Jim Gordon, to prove a point that at the end of “one bad day” can make everyone crazy like it did him.  Many viewed this scene as misogynistic.  It didn’t get to show the power that is Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, but what the writers didn’t realize is there is a way to add more content to a female superhero without giving her the same clichés from the comics that started the problem in the first place.

Without spoiling too much, even though the rumors are surely to hit every desktop screen in America, there is a bit of a much-despised sexual scene between Batman and Batgirl that makes zero sense.  In the words of fellow Pop-Break writer Alisha Weinberger, “It’s like watching a bad R&B music video, while simultaneously watching your girlfriend make a terrible mistake with a man who has no respect for her.”  With this scene, this is where the writers fail to grasp the true characterization and character development of the beloved heroes from the comics.  They don’t even really foreshadow the relationship to begin with, keeping it paternal the entire time just like the comics, which makes the scene in question all the more gross and cringe-worthy.  While I commend the writers for trying to expand on a character from the comic that didn’t get much time to show her true colors before becoming a pawn in the Joker’s sick and twisted game, this is just not the way to do it.

Besides the awful character development for poor Barbara in the beginning of the film, the rest of the movie is a true shot for shot film adaption of the beloved comic. This is where you could tell fans in the audience were happy and finally got to take a huge sigh of relief.  In the faithful adaption, not only do the writers get it right, sticking so close to the source material, the voice acting from both Hamill and Kevin Conroy (Batman) really give depth to the beloved characters. While the material they are working with was already full of emotion and depth deeper than the Grand Canyon, the way the voice actors worked their magic in certain scenes really added something to the film.

killing joke feat In particular, Hamill really worked magic here playing the clown prince of Gotham, giving him an emotional side that has been widely ignored in many adaptions of the Joker. In some scenes, you genuinely feel for the man.  Even after knowing everything he has done, you still feel for him because the film and Hamill himself remind the audience of one thing that seems to be neglected most times…the Joker is just a man.  A crazy man, but just a man at the end of the day who had one bad day.

All in all, the film is an average adaption, bordering on mediocre in some instances. It doesn’t exactly live up to the hype that surrounded the film at first glance, but Hamill and Conroy’s return to Gotham does emulate the glory days of the animated series and helps give this adaption life where Barbara Gordon sought to drown it in its own mediocrity. I’m not trying to hound the Batgirl story in this film, but at the same time I’m not applauding it either. It was a fantastic mistake on the writer’s part, completely misunderstanding the critiques from the comic book, but I applaud them for at least trying to improve that story.

My advice: Don’t let One Bad Day, and one bad idea ruin the film for you.  Watch the film, and take it with a grain of salt and I promise the faithful comic book parts will come faster than you know it.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Hello! My name is Laura Dengrove. I am currently a Junior at Rutgers University, double majoring in Journalism/Media Studies and Cinema Studies. I am a film critic and interviewer by choice, professional Linda Belcher impersonator by birth.