I remember many years ago when I was still in school and was buying comic books with all my spare money and I went to a comic book shop and purchased both The Killing Joke and The Long Halloween which were recommended to me to get by the staff in the store as the best Batman stories to get. While The Long Halloween is probably my favourite of the two, The Killing Joke is certainly the most memorable Batman story that I ever read. It’s probably like that for a lot of people out there as well who’ve read Batman comics as well, any serious fan of the Batman fan will know about The Killing Joke and will have some type of opinion on it. So now there’s this film, but is it any good?
I do believe it is quite good. While there are quite a few Batman animated films now, I’ve always watched them on DVD when they’re released and I’ve never heard of or had the opportunity to see them on the big screen, so of course I had to purchase to a ticket to see this in the cinema. It’s also been quite a long time since I’ve seen an animated film in the cinema as well, I guess not since the latest Dragon Ball Z film. I honestly loved it, I really do enjoy watching animated films and I loved the animation in this one, being such a rarity in the cinema these days it did feel quite special.
The animation in this film is dark, as it always seems to be with Batman stories, but it also seemed to me to be much darker than other animated films on screen. There are certain characters in the film, that to me just look ugly and sinister, matching the super dark tone which this film has. It’s possible that certain parts of this film will send people into some rage who aren’t expecting it, especially with what happens to Barbara Gordon in the end. The things that the Joker does in this film are horrible really, it’s not a story for kids and the animation certainly reflected the tone well. It’s almost like watching a horror film.
Characterisation in this film is strong. While I remember The Killing Joke as being a comic mainly about the origins of The Joker and how he came to be, which is all very interesting. This film is really the story of Batgirl and what happened to her during her time fighting crime alongside Batman. It’s a tragedy story, on one hand you have this super empowered young woman who is putting herself out there in a very cruel world and is fighting her way through it all and doing well for herself. But then you have her encounter the world of bad men, good men, gangsters and eventually The Joker. It’s one of the biggest Batgirl stories and it really felt like a tragedy watching what happened to her throughout the film, it’s really a horrible world.
We do get a very strong story and one with many big themes and issues that it explores, like female empowerment, relationships, mental illness, humiliation and cruelty. The film I think handles these themes well and they’re all really very dark themes to handle. Somehow by the end of it everything ends up okay (it is a Batman story after all) and that’s all good. I left the cinema somehow happy and really enjoyed this story as much I did with the comic book many years ago.
The voice acting is a favourite thing of mine, especially in a Batman story. I’ve gotten so used to hearing Mark Hamill’s Joker now and I can’t really imagine there ever being a better voice actor for The Joker, he’s the best and I’d honestly watch any joker story if he’s the voice. The same applies to Kevin Conroy who voices Batman, he’s been the animated Batman for so long now and has been in so many stories I’ve seen and he’s always great and easily my favourite Batman voice actor. Tara Strong who voices Batgirl in the film also does an excellent job and certainly won’t disappoint you at all, she’s voice acted for Barbara quite a few times now and is a great one. All voice actors are all so familiar to me now that, they just seem like the normal voices for these characters. It’ll be hard to see them replaced in the future many year’s from now with new ones one day.
Overall I do think that The Killing Joke was an interesting Batman film experience. It’s certainly the darkest story I’ve seen in a while and not just as a Batman story, of all recent films. Is it my favourite animated Batman film though? Probably not, that’s still The Dark Knight Returns, but this one was so well made that it’s up there in my top three or 4 at moment. It could have been a favourite film, but the story is just a little too dark for me to claim it as a favourite, but it’s still probably going to be number 1 as most memorable Batman animated film and one with the most discussion points.
If you have a chance to go see Batman: The Killing Joke in a cinema please do, it’s got some lovely animation, great voice acting, a decent script and some very serious themes which will surely leave you with a lot to discuss with your friends after seeing it. Also, animated films are so rare in cinemas now, if you love them, it’s just another reason to see it. If you can’t make it to a cinema, it’s certainly worth renting.