On Batman: The Killing Joke (spoilers)

In case the title was not any indication there will be spoilers. Normally spoilers are not something I’ll post within a respectable period of time after coming out so I don’t ruin it for anyone. The thing is, the story that this animated film was based on came out in 1988. So I think the grace period passed by quite some time ago. It’s like someone not knowing the Titanic sinks in the end.

So if you’ve never read The Killing Joke before this is essentially the point where Barbara Gordon initially transitions to the Oracle role. Not in the actual story, or at least in the book but I’ll get to that later. This also serves as a sort of origin story for the joker, but they point out through dialog that it is just how the Joke remembers it at that time and that he routinely remembers it differently. I think some people miss that part and assume that this is the actual origin story. Now supposedly DC is going to be revealing the true origin sometime soon, but for a long time this was the origin that people kind of assumed was the truth. I think between various versions the main consistent part is him falling in to a vat of chemicals which turns him in to the Joker.

Anyways, the movie.

So the movie added a bit of story, which is understandable considering the original story wasn’t all that long and serves as a bit of a lead up and is supposed to give you some form of attachment to Barbara Gordon’s character. This story essentially splits the movie in to two parts, the lead up and then the original story. The first part involves Batgirl trying to track down a mobster who becomes extremely infatuated with her and commits several crimes in order to impress her and get her attention. Honestly I feel this is where most of the ‘R’ rating this movie got came from this part of the movie. Mostly due to them being a bit more graphic then usual when showing the criminals getting shot or blown up. There is also a scene involving some prostitutes coming out of their boat and that he made one of them wear a pillow case cut up to look like Batgirl’s mask implying that he wanted to have sex/rape her. I say the second part because earlier in the movie he essentially drugs her and tells her that’s what he’s going to do.

Personally I don’t see how this really added to the story at all, they didn’t have to imply that he wanted to do that. The part about him being infatuated with her could have been enough of motivation by itself. There is also this whole side-story (inside a side-story) about Barbara Gordon working at the library and talking to her co-worker about her “yoga-instructor” that she likes but doesn’t know what to do about. The yoga-instructor being Batman obviously. I think here they were going more with the 1960’s tv version of her personality because I don’t remember her character wanting to jump Batman in the early comics. As far as I know she’s always been closer to Dick Grayson’s age then Batman’s and here they are essentially stating that the romance between Batgirl and Robin never existed. Mainly because in a scene near the end of this story her and Batman have sex. Or at least it is very much implied. Personally I think that was the worst part of the whole thing because it was totally unnecessary to the story. They use it as a lead in to why her character ends up giving up the mantle of Batgirl, but really they didn’t need to do that.

This is where the story based on the comic book picks up, post Barbara Gordon quitting being Batgirl. She’s at home with her father and answers the door to come face to face with the Joker freshly escaped from Arkham. The Joker promptly shoots her in the midsection which ends up crippling her and putting her in a wheelchair for something like 20 years. Some people have falsely attributed the reason Joker shoots her as a means to get at Batman, which implies he knows she was Batgirl. Personally I think he shoots her because of who her father is and the point that the Joker is trying to make, which is the whole point of the book/movie. The point he is trying to make being that anyone can be driven insane by having one really bad day. This is where the backstory for him (the Joker) comes in, showing how the day he became the Joker was just such a day for him. He tries to prove this point by shooting her in front of her father, then subjecting Commissioner Gordon to a series of events in an effort to drive him crazy.

In the end Batman captures the Joker after having this conversation and the Joker pointing out that even Batman must have had one bad day because why else would he dress up like a bat and capture criminals. In the end there isn’t much of a fight, which is what typically would happen in a story like this. The confrontation comes down to Batman trying to talk it out with the Joker.

So how do I feel about the movie? For the most part I liked it. I didn’t care for the extra bits with the implied sex or rape fantasies as I didn’t feel it was needed. That felt more like the producers wanting to make this rated ‘R’ to make it seem more controversial then it was. The voice acting was the best part for me though. I grew up watching the 1990’s animated Batman series featuring Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. To me they are the only real voices of the characters, even if the actor (Jason O’Mara) who has done a lot of the more recent voice work are not bad. The animation was also really well done, and reminded me a lot of the animated series designs.

One thing that annoyed me was the lack of good special features on the disc. There were the usual trailers for the next movie, and a couple episodes of the animated series which I honestly never watch. The only featurette that they had was a 30 minute or so thing about the Joker that just wasn’t that good. I can’t honestly say what was in it because I either wasn’t interested enough to remember or I possibly fell asleep during it.

Now would I recommend watching it? Sure, it isn’t a bad movie. I don’t agree with a few of their story points but those don’t make it bad. You can probably even skip that entire part and just watch the part based on the original comic and be just fine. But also do yourself a favor and read the original story too, especially if you haven’t read it before.

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