Fans of Batman: The Killing Joke waited since 1988 to get their hands on an animated version of their beloved tale, but it has finally arrived. Is it possible for the product to be anything less than amazing with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill providing the voiceover work to a big-budget production of Alan Moore’s tale? The short answer: Yes.
Before we move on, let me first stay that I find central premise of The Killing Joke — we are all just “one bad day” away from becoming the Joker — rather intriguing.
The Joker says:
“Let me ask you something. What does it matter if you send me back to the asylum if it doesn’t matter to me? I’ve proven my point — Gordon’s been driven mad. I’ve demonstrated there’s no difference between me and everyone else. All it takes is one bad day. That’s how far the world is from where I am — just one bad day. You had a bad day once, am I right? Oh, I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Dressing up like a flying rat doesn’t hide it. It screams it!
You had a bad day and it drove you as crazy as everybody else, only you won’t admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there’s some point to all this struggling. You make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are?
Without getting into too many spoilers, I must say that specific scenes are incredibly thought-provoking, particularly when it comes to exploring the rule of law in a world populated with vigilante superheroes. The Joker conjures up a scheme to prove to his rival once and for all that moral relativism reigns supreme, and he certainly makes the case to those who are not eagle-eyed when it comes to spotting spurious arguments.
Where The Killing Joke fails, however, is its well-intentioned attempt to add extra depth and dramatic tension to the script.
Two words come to mind: Batman sex.
Longtime DC readers can correct this Marvel fan if he is wrong, but has Batman ever appeared as anything other than a father figure and mentor to Barbara Gordon? This version of The Killing Joke turns Ms. Gordon into a smitten girl with impulse-control problems and Batman into a caped crusader who robs the cradle.
One can almost hear the internal monologue of screenwriter Brian Azzarello: “If Batman sleeps with Barbara Gordon, then it will sting him even more when he finds out that she was shot by his arch enemy. Then, when he realizes that the Joker raped her — yes, they have both been with the same woman — the audience will understand why Bruce might go over ‘the abyss’ in the end…”
The problem, however, is that a self-contained 30-minute tale simply cannot set the stage for a relationship between the two to grow. It comes across as forced and, quite frankly, creepy. Perhaps this reviewer is in the minority, but the bizarre nature of the scene lingered with me for the entire movie — so much so that I would recommend fans of the comic book consider skipping the first 28 minutes all together.
If you are a fan of DC’s animated movies, then I would suggest watching Batman: The Killing Joke when it comes out on Netflix. It is not worth the $14.99 YouTube charges if you are by yourself, although a fun night can be had if you split the cost three ways with a couple of friends.
Did you see Batman: The Killing Joke? If so, then let me know what you thought in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Editor’s Note: I always thought that the story behind “The Red Hood” was rather dumb. Moore’s attempt to humanize the Joker by turning him into a failed comedian always seemed lame to me, but I would like to hear a hard-core Batman fan’s take on the subject.