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One of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time has now come to
the big screen. Not only is this one of the most acclaimed novels ever
but it's one of the most controversial. The story is basically an
origin tale for the infamous Batman villain, The Joker. When this movie
was initially announced back at the beginning of 2016 there was some
serious hype surrounding it. Especially when it received an R rating.
One thing that really made me nervous though was how quickly this
actually released. Obviously, it could've been in production long
before it was announced back at the beginning of the year, but after
seeing the film, I don't think that's the case.
The first thirty minutes of the film is a kind of prelude involving, mostly, Batgirl. It talks about how she came to quit being said superhero and draws a thread between her and Batman. Now, this story is controversial for a reason. Not only does it explore tough themes but it shows the details of these horrible things. The story in the graphic novel is brutal, uncompromising, and pretty tough to get through.
However the film is just the opposite. It tries hard to retell the story seen in the novel, yet any emotional drama is all but lost. This mainly has to do with the length of the film itself. Being only 80 minutes, it's rather short. As I said, the first thirty minutes revolves around Batgirl. And this segment of time is absolutely the worst to sit through. It's tedious, overly long, and so cliché and predictable that there's nothing remotely enjoyable.
While, this part of the film is undoubtedly the worst from a storytelling standpoint, there are a number of things that remained consistently bad throughout. Most notably was the animation. From a studio like Warner Bros you'd expect some decent art work, but not here. The back drops nor art design is well put together. It's clunky, with no style to be found.
It looks like they took the animation from a rough draft of the animated series and colored it in. This issue becomes even more clear whenever it attempts 3D animation. The other blaring issue that continues through the film is the music. Which is completely contrived and formulated to the point of it being so cliché that is, in fact not cliché.
As the film ended, a crowd that once cheered for the lights dimming, was left in stunned silence. Not a good stunned silence like you get after watching 'Gone Girl', this type of silence is the kind where people don't know what they just saw. For me, this had to do with the complete lack of any emotional resonance. When it attempts to recreate the power of the novel it fails.
It doesn't commit enough to the drama of the story. Even with its R rating it doesn't draw the same toughness the novel does. It lacks the rawness that the novel has to make it's audience queasy. It's not graphic enough to be disturbing and it's not lighthearted enough to be fun. It just bounces from scene to scene with little connecting one to another. The best way to describe it is that it goes from this scene to that scene and than it ends. That's about it. This is one film that should have been great. All the pieces are there. It has a great studio behind it, an excellent voice team, and a brilliant story. But it lacks the emotional power that the novel has. Even though it has its R rating it doesn't fully commit to it, or anything for that matter. Without coherent direction and the overall first draft vibe of the film it's hardly the experience we've been lead to believe it is.
OK... I'll be honest: I was waiting something great and I didn't get it. Maybe because of the very high expectations that the movie just couldn't reach. There was a couple of things that bothered me. I think the important part was too short (about 45 minutes), they gave too much emphasis to the Batgirl prologue, I mean, the Joker appeared 30 minutes after the movie initiated, for God sake! Yes, there was some things from that part that I thought were interesting, I'm sure some people will hate them though. I was very uncomfortable with the inconsistency of the art style, sometimes The Joker looked amazing, sometimes... not very good; besides, the animation was very weak in several scenes, I mean like 10 fps and that's unacceptable Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy's work was the best of the movie, I can't complain about that. It was OK. But they could do it a lot better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've always thought that The Killing Joke is actually not long enough
and not quite suitable enough for big screen. This just proves it.
There's a lot of padding to extend the run time. First 20-ish minutes are brand new stuff, not from the comic book. It deals with Barbara and her relationship with Batman. Also, they have sex. Yeah, so, moving on.
I guess that new stuff had purpose to extend the run time and maybe add some more character to Barbara, to make the later stuff more impactful. But somehow it (new stuff) becomes totally disconnected from the rest. Again, the comic didn't have that much material to put into an hour plus long movie. So while it does fill the time, it doesn't add much or subtracts from the whole picture. Although, that sex scene was a bit unnecessary.
There are few more fillers along the way and they are also in that "nor adding, nor subtracting anything from the whole" formula.
Ending was a bit weird too. While it will be an eternal debate about "did Batman strangled Joker or not?", in the comic, that last page ended perfectly, they both laugh, then they both stop, and you can only "hear" incoming cop sirens. Here, similar, only we hear Batman weird laugh extending into fade to end credits. While a small thing, it kinda annoyed me. Also, there's a mid credits stinger, which was also out of place and felt a bit unnecessary.
Now, it's nothing new that Alan Moore doesn't want to have anything with transferring his stories to big screen, here they skipped him completely and credited Brian Azzarello for story. I guess he did the best he could to expand the story to fit into an hour and 15 minutes animated feature. Only those fillers were kind of whatever.
Voice acting and all that, Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, Nolan North.. all the good stuff about that. Music, also fine. What I want to write a bit more about is animation. Now I'm aware how painful process of animating can be but here we got DC average animation to DVD/BR home feature - bit stiff, not much texture to the world and characters but passable. It could (should) be way better though.
Directing was OK but I can't shake the feeling that a bit of quality directing and editing would make this thing a whole lot better. But it's OK.
And that's the running theme here - OK. Good but not great. In the end it was just another DC animated straight to DVD/BR feature and not exactly suited for the big screen. I would be OK if they never made this, but I'm OK with this as well but it could be better, as I already said. I expected more, was fine with what I got... but... I expected more dammit.
It may seem like this is a high rating given the backlash DC animated
The Killing Joke has received, however this is an averaged out rating.
In honesty this isn't a very good movie, despite the fact that when
the filmmakers and adapter Brian Azzarello (do I hasten to call him a
'screenwriter' after this one credit?) stick to the original Alan Moore
source it's a dark and involving delight. It's what comes before it,
how they make it into a "full movie" that things fall apart. This is a
schizophrenic experience full of high highs, generic lows and some what
the almighty Jesus bloody hell for good measure.
And I get what they tried to do or felt they had to do as far as making it a complete experience as a 75 minute film. Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, is more of a plot device in the comic (spoiler? Joker shoots and paralyzed her before kidnapping Commissioner for his amusement park nightmare games), so to flesh out her backstory with Batman is good. On paper. Actually, not on this paper, as it turns into a half hour story where Batgirl is chasing after a ho-Hum "charming" criminal who I don't even recall in the comics (if he was in it he's certainly not memorable) and it's all here to make it a Batgirl story with Batman mostly as the ornery father figure...
Which makes that 'thing' that happens between them so jarring; if this was squarely a batman/batgirl story theoretically it could go somewhere )I'm not saying it's a good idea in most any context, again those like Robin or Batgirl are more like the kids to Batman not those he gets uh down n dirty with). But Azzarello crams it in where it doesn't fit and if anything makes the motivations for what comes in the actual Killing Joke story hamfisted. Not to mention how it's presented is silly especially given what room is open with an R rating (the first for any Batman film, ironically you could show this to most kids 12 and up and it'd be fine).
Despite this troubling and/or just typical Batman/Batgirl story that squanders potential with really delving into backstory the comic hinted at, or because of it, when that second half of the film kicks in to gear and we get the story of the comic it'S presented largely faithfully and the genius and power of that story comes through; the Joker as a 'sympathetic' being with his own origin story which, by the end, is satisfying as its own story and is brilliant as a circumspect narrative from an unreliable storyteller.
I may also be a sucker for Hamill as the Joker but how can one not be when he always sinks his teeth in and makes him a real PRESENCE in a room? Adding to this he creates a good, relatable voice for pre.transformation Joker in the flashbacks and we get drawn in to his story in large part because that voice acting comes through. The animation is also top notch (as far as the limited budget allows), and some moments in that fun-house/amusement park are shown to be iconic for a reason; if you get any allusions to the Burton 89 Batman there's a reason for that.
I think my high rating is due to finding that main story so compelling - what a hero or villain means when they have to face existential questions and how they relate to one another through "one bad day" (interestingly though Moore recently says he doesn't like his own work here I find he underrated it, that he got under the skin of these iconic figures to show them as people). So I wanted it to be great, and it flirts with being as strong as the first part of the Dark Knight Returns movie or even Mask of the Phantasm. But that first half hour drags it into a murky, middle feeling where overall you come away saying 'it's alright, I guess,' with an ambiguous ending not landed with the weight that's required either.
The complete first half hour was completely unnecessary, it may have intended to add emotional weight to when Barbara got shot, but the studio could have encapsulated that in a much better way. The main antagonist of the film failed to show up until half way through the movie which made the first half utterly boring. In addition, the needless sexualization of Batgirl and her 'special' relationship with Batman was also among the list of unnecessary items that were in this movie, this also contributed to ruining the characterization of Batman. The Joker was on point as one would usually expect. However, in summation the movie fails to capture the magic that the comic presented us with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not sure how to approach this movie. I wanted to like this movie I
really did. I wanted to like everything about it. From its revival of
the good old' Batman TAS to the voice actors to the sweeping
soundtrack, the polished animation reflecting a dark Art Deco Gothic
whatever the hell you call it STYLE. Maybe I was asking for too much
but perhaps a little story on the side too. Pretty please?
That being said, I also slapped a big 'REALISTIC Expectations' sticker over my eyes before watching the screen come alive. I knew this wasn't going to be as good as Batman: The Animated Series. But I was glad to have something reminiscent of that monolith of 1990's animation and storytelling. Boy was I in for a surprise.
The core issue of this movie is not the A) story it chose to tell or B) how it told said story but rather C) the juxtaposition of a classic show's established world (including its location, characters and story) with a modern flavor. Telling a new story that kind of breaks the older established world we all fell in love with on the TV screen. Then yes we have the story itself, a dark telling of how the joker became to be, without Warner Bros. censorship. This complicates things a bit. So without further ado, let's go down the list!
Issue #1: Old World with new rules that break it.
Really jarring, adds a new dimension of sex that was apparently very crucial to the story (or not). Enter strong powerful female figure defined by her sexuality, hit on by every hot criminal she meets, then making kinky love to Batman on rooftops with creepy goblins looking over ("it's only sex!") Definitely not a shallow character, no shortage of hot gay library friends and definitely loads of problems like deciding which guy she wants to be with. Let's see what's behind door number one BATMAN.
Who is Batman? In this movie, he's pretty much a Zoltar of lazy story exposition. Says the most obvious things. Has no inner conflict. Has no fears. Has no emotions no feelings yet in the end we are supposed to feel his turmoil in fighting the Joker. Batman ladies and gents, is purely a device in this film. Batgirl was fan-service. And the movie spent a good 40 minutes setting up her love story to Batman when all of this information could've been relayed in a few key scenes! Why didn't this happen? Because the real star of the show got pushed out the Joker!
Wasn't the story about the Joker more than anything? He isn't a witty clever funny man anymore. Now he's just misunderstood and 10x darker than Nolan's version. Although voiced by Hamill, he doesn't even compare to the TAS Joker who lit up the screen. Going to credit this to mediocre writing. Obvious things (90% Batman lines), dumb things (35% Batgirl lines) and unfunny things (75% Joker lines) should not exist. Make your dialogue interesting and worth quoting!
These flat characters, the story's misplaced focus on character and conflict arise from the core issues the new Batman, complete with its sexy fan-service, empty brooding heroes and second-rate comic relief just cannot exist in this world. A Killing Joke is a story of its own and if it takes time trying to break the Batman TAS, then it should've been in its own world. Dear Mr. Liu, please do not use Batman TAS for anything if you're going to give us something new. Just give us something new. This story could've been its own thing and it could've been great.
Issue #2: Show don't tell.
Pretty much a copy of the graphic novel panel by panel. Come on spice it up a bit give us different angles, close-ups and MOVEMENT. Show us what animation can do even if it's on a tight budget. Show us the wonder and essence of the world. Make us feel the DESIRE Batgirl has to work with Batman, let us hear the thunder and rain crashing down on everything show us the details that move us emotionally. When we see the Joker from afar talking to the police about his wife, give us those strong visuals that tell the story on their own instead of him flatly saying his wife is dead. Show his loss and his madness. Don't deliver lines at dramatic points. Don't make Batman aware and comment on his meta-role as a foil to the Joker that's obvious and doesn't need to be in focus (even if in the original).
Issue #3: Same story no insights.
The Killing Joke is a very dark story and sometimes less is more. The Joker on his tirade fails to truly shock the audience. What he chose to do should've been the true horror of the story and presented as such so it sneaks up slowly on the audience. This could've been accomplished in so many creative ways. It was literally just given to the audience and rather quickly.
In closing, it makes me think twice when an older 1993 movie like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (highly underrated btw) outdoes The Killing Joke as a serious film with some substance to pack and scenes that tell a story on their own. I can't believe I'm saying this but the Joker was downright chilling in Phantasm and I watched that movie as an adult. It's not the inner fanboy leaking but a respect for the art. Watch Phantasm or Batman TAS if you're looking for a mature story that knows what it's doing. They may not have the newest animation or fan-service but it does have characters you'll care about and a story that will touch your soul.
First, It is important to say that I'm not a geek, a huge HQ fan, or anything like that. So, if you want a review done by an expert, this is not the review for you. Otherwise, if you appreciate an honest review you can keep reading. Batman the killing joke is a great adaptation to the screens of a very successful HQ. The humanity that the plot line conveyed to the joker, mainly at the end of the movie, was surprising. This was the high point of the movie for me. His philosophy that states we should embrace the chaos through madness is well built and you can understand his answer to all the randomness around us. At the end of this movie, you will probably even feel bad for the guy. Perhaps, you might even been convinced that, as the joker says, "we really are just one bad day away from being him". Ps: English is not my first language, so don't mind the mistakes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Batman: The Killing Joke. Where do I start? I own the comic, and I've
read it countless times. I absolutely love it. This film gets the
amazing Alan Moore comic, and takes a huge, steaming dump on it.
I may as well start with the good parts of it. Mark Hamill, as always, brings his A-Game to this movie, as it is The Killing Joke. Mark Hamill has always been my favorite Joker, and as I saw the film in a cinema, there was a nice little featurette about him before the film began.
Unfortunately, the film began after that. Let's start with the first 20 minutes. There's this storyline about Batgirl trying to prove herself to Batman or something, which involves some crazy dude who is in love with Batgirl. Absolutely none of that happened in the comics and even if you haven't read the comic, you could probably tell. Apparently every female-lead film nowadays has to have subtle feminist undertones, which is fine, I guess. But in this film, it's not too subtle. Plus, The Killing Joke isn't about Batgirl, it's about the relationship between Batman and The Joker. Barbara Gordon is simply a piece of the puzzle that is The Joker's plan to make Commissioner Gordon go mad. Batgirl isn't even in the comic.
The relationship between Batman and Batgirl in the film is completely different from any comic I've read. Batman and Batgirl have a paternal relationship, not a sexual one. Yes, I said sexual. Batman and Batgirl have sex in this movie, and they play it off as if this has ever happened in the comics. How about we talk about the scene where Barbara Gordon is shot. You can tell a comic scene is terribly adapted when Birds of Prey does a better job at it.
The actual comic part of the film doesn't start until about 20 minutes in, by that time I just want to get up and leave. And while it does follow the source material pretty accurately, so does Watchmen. They remove anything special about the comic and turn it into a boring, mindless, sub-par animated film. They didn't even try in the animation department, with some scenes looking like they came from a badly- made motion comic.
Kevin Conroy returns as Batman, which should have made me happy, but there's something really wrong when Ben Affleck does a better job as Batman than Kevin-freaking-Conroy. It's easy to tell that he didn't really want to be in this movie, as he brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Great lines in the comic come out extremely lackluster.
So, wrapping up, The Killing Joke gets an amazing comic book by the amazingly talented Alan Moore, and removes everything great about it to make a Batgirl-centered story that really shouldn't exist. This truly proves that Alan Moore's comics are unfilmable.
So obviously when i first heard about this movie, i was really pumped,
and kept up with updates as it came closer to the release.
I've always loved the PG-13 animated Batman movies, and of course I hear about this one's R rating I'm wow this is going to more amazing than any ever before it.
So the time finally comes and of course I go to the one night theater showing.
Strong start, love it, some good action, funny moments. But then I notice that all the bad guys say "freaking" quite often. Was this a prelude to the rest of the movie?
Yes. It was. The R rating was a total scam. There's some brief bloody shots, like 2 actual curse words (mild too), an IMPLIED sex scene, an even what was to be considered the most controversial part of the original comic...was completely censored as well. It was PG-13 by my standards. "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Assault on Arkham" were both PG-13 and had WAYYY more blood, violence and language than this did. (Assault on Arkham also had more sexual scenes and still remained PG-13). It was just really disappointing.
The plot was really loose too. When the movie ended I was like..."wait what?" There was no climax. The rising action just quickly crashed into the falling action and ended. This just goes to show that not every comic looks good on the big screen.
Really the only thing I liked was the fact that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were in it.
Would I recommend it? It's worth a watch, I guess. Just as long as you go into it thinking, "This is a PG-13 movie."
If you want to watch something better as far as PG-13 Animated Batman goes, "The Dark Knight Returns" (not to be confused with "The Dark Knight Rises"), "Assault on Arkham", and "Under The Red Hood" are all three very amazing movies.
I really wanted The Killing Joke to be DC Animation's return to greatness.
The parts that are actually The Killing Joke are great, but I just can't ignore the first 30 minutes. It felt like a random episode of a completely unrelated Batman TV show. I get that they wanted to make Batgirl more sympathetic and an actual character in the movie, rather than just a plot point, but honestly, who cares? Who gives a crap about Batgirl? She doesn't matter, she's irrelevant to the story. The Killing Joke is supposed to be about Batman's relationship with The Joker. Instead, it felt almost as If Barbara Gordon was the main character. If they didn't want to just do a direct adaptation of the novel because it'd be too short, I get it, but find another way to expand it.
But still, like I said, as soon as the actual movie starts, it's great. Hamill and Conroy were obviously great. They stole the show, specially Hamill. I didn't like Commissioner Gordon's voice though, it sounded weird.
Overall, good movie, but it should have been great.
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