SPOILERS: BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE - 5 Things It Got Right And 3 Things It Got Wrong

Batman: The Killing Joke may very well be the most highly anticipated animated movie of all-time, but does it deliver or completely fail to live up to the classic comic book tale? Here's our analysis...

Batman: The Killing Joke reunites Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for an R-Rated take on Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's classic comic book tale. Hailed by some as the greatest Batman story of all-time, it's never been adapted in any form, so Warner Bros. Animation were pretty brave to tackle it despite their mostly stellar track record. Now, a release on DVD and Blu-ray beckons alongside a brief theatrical run.

With so much anticipation surrounding this project, can it ever really live up to the hype? I was recently able to see the movie early, and yes, it definitely delivers. However, that doesn't mean it's perfect! 

What you'll find here then is a SPOILER-FILLED breakdown of what did and did not work in Batman: The Killing Joke. From story decisions to the animation and significance of that rating, not every single plot beat is laid out here, but there's plenty of information which should help you decide if the movie is worth your time and money. Stay tuned to CBM next week as we'll have lots more on this one...

In Vue Cinemas for one night only July 25


Available on EST from July 26


Arrives on Blu-rayTM and DVD on August 8

Didn't Work: Romance Between Batman And Batgirl

The relationship between Batman and Batgirl in The Killing Joke is actually handled really well until an argument between the protective Caped Crusader and his partner turns physical. What appears to initially be a pretty cool fight between them as Barbara vents her frustrations quickly turns into her straddling him, removing her mask and top, and them having sex on a rooftop.

Clearly done as a way of making things even more personal for Batman when he later goes after The Joker, this feels like a really strange addition to the story, especially as Bruce gives her the cold shoulder after they hook up (which frustrates Batgirl and essentially turns her into a mopey teenager with a crush on her teacher). This ultimately doesn't hurt the movie too much, but it definitely didn't need to be here as there were surely better ways to show how much the Dark Knight cares about Barbara. 

Did Work: Mark Hamill's Best Performance Yet As The Joker

Let's be honest, Mark Hamill is a downright awesome dude. However, as iconic as he is as Luke Skywalker and as fun as he is as The Trickster, it's The Joker which is in many ways his greatest role. He's delivered some brilliant performances in everything from Batman: The Animated Series to the superb Arkham games, but The Killing Joke is by far his best take on The Clown Prince of Crime to date.

The speeches he delivers as The Joker are full of passion, while his scenes as the normal guy who was bullied into donning the mask of the Red Hood before his transformation are every bit as great due to the subtle way the actor changes his voice to reflect the difference between the then and now. He's just brilliant throughout, and this movie is worth buying to enjoy his performance alone; honestly, I just can't see how it can get any better than this. 

Did Work: The Animation

I'm usually not a huge fan of animated movies, and the sort of work in these releases from Warner Bros. Animation has always been a bit hit and miss for me. Some look overly simplistic, while others take on an anime type style I'm not overly fond of, but Batman: The Killing Joke is one of their strongest efforts yet. There really aren't any weak moments in this respect, and the action scenes in particular look great (the brief battle between Batman and The Joker at the end is a definite highlight).

I would have liked perhaps a little more detail here and there - particularly on the costumes - especially as some scenes vary greatly when it comes to how good the characters look. Overall though, the movie really does make use of a well defined style and is probably one of the most eye pleasing movies to have been released by the studio. 

Didn't Work: The Long Winded Opening

It's completely understandable that The Killing Joke would add a little extra to the story in order to familiarise viewers with Barbara Gordon and make them actually care about her, but the opening ends up lasting way too long, and I found myself wishing the movie would just hurry up and get to the story it's named after.

Batman and Batgirl going after a crime boss who develops an unhealthy obsession with her just isn't that compelling, and when she snaps and starts beating him furiously, it's not a moment which feels earned or particularly necessary by that stage. In fact, this whole thing feels like it's just tacked on to the larger story as a whole, and were surely better ways to get us to care about Barbara before she's so viciously attacked by The Joker. It's also something which could have been achieved in five minutes, but it ends up taking a good twenty five or so.


Did Work: The R-Rating

Does The Killing Joke need that R-Rating? Given the sort of material it addresses, definitely, and the movie makes good use of it without ever becoming too gratuitously violent or unnecessarily sadistic. Something sure to generate some controversy is the fact that the Clown Prince of Crime still strips Barbara naked to take photographs after shooting her, but it's not like we get any cartoon nudity. Instead, it's handled in pretty much the exact same way as in the comic book this is based on.

There's also some blood in there, but it's mostly the very adult themes from the Alan Moore/Brian Bolland tale which wouldn't have worked in a standard PG-13 animated feature aimed at youngsters. So, yeah, The Killing Joke's R-Rating was more than a stunt to make fans happy; the movie uses it to its advantage and it ultimately helps to enhance the story.

Did Work: A Faithful Adaptation...

Quite a few of Warner Bros. Animation's features have been named after beloved comic book storylines, but their faithfulness to the source material has veered wildly. The Killing Joke finds a nice balance, and while it obviously doesn't slavishly adapt the comic book in terms of replicating every single panel and line, it's definitely one to put in the "faithful" category.

There's some new stuff in there - Mark Hamill's musical number is all sorts of awesome - but the key moments you were no doubt hoping to see make the cut most definitely do. We even get to see The Joker's origin story as the Red Hood, while the movie lifts plenty of small details from the graphic novel which you probably won't even notice unless you go back and reread it immediately after. As a result, The Killing Joke feels like a satisfactory adaptation, but is it a little too faithful?

Didn't Work: ...But Perhaps Too Faithful

This feels like a silly complaint in some ways, and perhaps I'm just reaching to find something bad to say about a really great movie, but the problem with The Killing Joke adapting the comic books it's named after so closely is that surprises are few and far between from the moment The Joker fires that fateful shot to the scene where he and Batman share a laugh.

That's no bad thing if you went in wanting to see your favourite Batman story done justice, but some may end up feeling a tad underwhelmed that there wasn't at least one new subplot (outside of that overlong opening) which perhaps shook things up to at least some extent. It doesn't help that the cast is so small in some ways, but if you just want a faitful take on The Killing Joke, disregard this point because you'll be happy. 

Did Work: The Ending

One of the most talked about things from The Killing Joke comic book is that final laugh shared between Batman and The Joker. Did the Caped Crusader strangle or break the neck of the villain? The movie doesn't provide any answers, but the fact that the screen fades to black with only the Dark Knight's laughter in the background just might!

It's been handled in a way to generate discussion, and you honestly can't fault it as a result. After all, it's one of those things which could have easily fallen flat if not handled just right, but the movie injects the scene with a lot of emotion and the delivery of both Hamill and Conroy makes the world of difference. The latter's laugh is quite something to hear, and the chemistry these two share make the recreation of this iconic scene better than any other version which may or may not follow in the future.

Are you looking forward to seeing Batman: The Killing Joke? As always, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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