‘That actually is… Pretty funny…’
I chose to start this review with a quote from the Joker. This specific quote isn’t even from The Killing Joke, it’s from the 2011 video game ‘Arkham City’. Now there is a reason for this, and I will detail it below, as it sums up my review pretty well. Warning, some spoilers follow. Reader discretion is advised.
The original Killing Joke is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore, and it is considered both an Iconic Batman story and Masterpiece, but also among some of the most misogynistic work to come out of comics. This divisive opinion stems from the content written – Current Batgirl Barbara Gordon is shot through the spine, in an attempt to drive her father, the police commissioner insane. In that respect, this is very much a Women in refrigerators scenario. However the flipside of this is Barbara Gordon became a new character known as Oracle, who is a strong role model for both women and disabled people alike. Like I say, the story is divisive.
In an attempt to expand on the story, the animated version of The Killing Joke has been expanded to make the story seem less misogynistic and more in context. In that regard, it fails miserably. It’s actually… Pretty funny.
The expanded story makes a number of changes to the established canon, none of which is for the better. There is the introduction of new mobster Paris Franz, who is very much a budget discount Joker made for Batgirl. He’s also hella rapey and weird, just so the creators could push the idea that Batgirl is a strong character.
That I can get past, like whatever new villain is bad but he’s unimportant. What I cannot get past however, are the changes to Barbara. The biggest one being her crush on Batman. Some stories have covered this, but there are reason this isn’t canon. Barbara see’s Batman as a secondary father figure, and has had healthy relationships (WITH PEOPLE NOT DOUBLE HER AGE AND BATMAN). So when shes not getting mad at Batman for doing his job, she works in a library (Another unnecessary change) and details her struggling love life to a Gay best friend (Sigh). This all comes to a head with Batman and Batgirl having sex on a rooftop. Yeah. If I didn’t already know the better content was coming, I would have switched off there. Somehow Batgirl’s female empowerment came from her finally getting sex? I don’t know, it just didn’t work.
Thankfully that was just the first half, and the second half is the chilling Killing Joke story everyone knows. Thankfully this was covered nearly panel for panel, and tells the same story that shook the world. It’s dark, It’s psychological and it stirs up profound thoughts about yourself and the world. It’s a shame that the audience was forced to wait this long into the run time to see it. The entire first half could have been removed, as there’s barely any segway between the new content and the shooting scene.
Thankfully Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill do spectacular jobs (as usual) voicing the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime respectively. It’s almost enough to make you forget the awful first half. It’s a shame the animation isn’t up to the usual DC scratch though, the art direction was to make it seem more aged it seems? Either way I don’t think it benefited the movie in any way.
Put bluntly, you should skip to the second half of the movie and pretend the new stuff doesn’t exist. They’re two different movies entirely, and as such, I’m gonna rate them separately.
Score (First Half) – 3/10
Score (Second Half) – 10/10