Fathom Events brought DC Comics' highly-anticipated animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's best-selling graphic novel "Batman: The Killing Joke" to theaters for a two-night only premiere event. Theaters were sold out all over the world and expectations were high. The movie reunites Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy and Joker extraordinaire Mark Hamill with Tara Strong as Batgirl.
About thirty minutes into "Batman: The Killing Joke" I started wondering to myself, "Did they play the wrong movie?" I kept waiting for the Joker to show up, or for ANY sign that what I was taking in was even related to Alan Moore's critically acclaimed book. It's not that what I was seeing wasn't good, it just wasn't necessary to the overall story being told. I wanted to see what I came for.
DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation’s latest release feels like the filmmakers took two episodes of a new Batman Animated Series and combined them in an attempt to make a full length feature. There was no attempt to blend or combine the two halves together and make balance it out. I'd rather have just seen a thirty minute short film of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s book. If you start it from the point where Batman walks into Arkham Asylum up until the credits roll, you have a snappy mini-movie that would please most fans of the Caped Crusader.
“Batman: The Killing Joke” is faithful to its source material once it moves into the actual adaptation of the graphic novel. There are changes and little bits and pieces visually altered to make the movie safer, contrary to its supposed R-rating. However, it’s actually quite surprising the extent animators went to in order to capture the essence of Brian Bolland’s handiwork. We also get ingenious nods to the different incarnations we’ve seen of the Joker over the years, from Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger and more.
Let's talk about the R-rating for "Batman: The Killing Joke". While there are some adult situations and disturbing imagery, I would hardly consider this to be worthy of an R-rating. I've seen worse in a PG-13 horror film. It does include violence, gore and profanity. There are also insinuations of rape off-camera, but producer Bruce Timm says that's not what they were suggesting.
Aside from the actual adaptation of the graphic novel, “Batman: The Killing Joke” is definitely weaker than past DC Animated movies. If you skip past the first part of the film, you'll find an entertaining half hour or so dedicated to its title. I hate saying that because I love Director Sam Liu’s previous films and most of the other creative forces behind them. However, they struck out with their approach to this one.
"Batman: The Killing Joke" is available now in Blu-ray, DVD, and digital editions.