DVD Review - Batman: The Killing Joke

In terms of stories involving the Joker, the infamous DC Comics villain, this one doesn't rank as high. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) are significantly better than this. The latter was even partially inspired by the same graphic novel that this is adapting, but Nolan's film was braver and didn't become muddled in its perspective and point-of-view. In both this movie and Nolan's film, there is this idea that good people can be turned bad or that there is a fine line between your average citizen and your average criminal, and tangentially Batman and Joker are two sides of the same coin.

In The Dark Knight, that theory is tested with Harvey Dent. In a way, that theory is tested on Andrea Beaumont in Mask of the Phantasm, but, specifically that theory is tested on Jim Gordon here in this movie. Despite the horrible things that happen to Jim Gordon, as depicted here, this seems like the weakest of the theory tests. It has nothing to do with the material or the substance. It just feels like the pacing or the focus is off in some way.

If Jim Gordon is going to be tested, then the focus and pacing on his character should be appropriate, and it isn't. An hour or so of this movie goes by and it's like we've only seen Jim for a minute and it's not enough. Instead of Jim, the movie spends a hour on Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Jim, so the test should have been for her, which is what writer Brian Azzarello tries to do, but then abandons it.

Barbara is Batgirl and the first hour concerns her chasing a criminal named Parry Francesco, voiced by John DiMaggio. Francesco has a crush on Barbara, an obsession but he's also a deadly threat. Her pursuit of him starts to affect her and pushes her to her limits, even to the point that she could kill. Instead of continuing that thread, instead of continuing to test Barbara, it switches to Jim and then makes it all about him, but not really.

Again, Jim's screen time is so minimal that he barely even registers as a character in this narrative. Barbara is reduced to nothing but a victim, which comes from the graphic novel and is supposed to be a shocking thing. In that regard, this adaptation is faithful, but changing the events in the graphic novel and having Jim be the victim would have been more in-line with the first hour of this movie.

Kevin Conroy who voices Batman and Mark Hamill who voices Joker are of course good in their performances. Hamill is more a standout, but the movie is designed that way and does take full advantage. It's also a far better Joker than in Suicide Squad.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for bloody images, disturbing content and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 16 mins.


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