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DC Animation Should Make a Theatrical Feature and it Should be The Killing Joke

I’ve said before to anyone who would listen that DC Animation should release a theatrical feature. They haven’t done one since practically their first all the way back in 1993 with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm which was more or less a spin-off of Batman: The Animated Series and had a fairly limited theatrical release. Since then, they’ve released several other spin-off movies for Batman: TAS, Batman Beyond, and Superman: TAS before releasing their first stand-alone Superman movie Doomsday in 2007 based on the Death and Return of Superman comic book arc. Their very next one, Justice League: The New Frontier would be their first PG-13 rated feature. In the following years, they’ve released 15 other straight-to-home-video animated movies based on other popular comic book runs as well as a handful of short films included on some of the DVDs. The stories they tell in these animated features are much more like what you would find in a Japanese Anime movie, these aren’t kids films, they are grown up stories based on well written comics. They are done on a direct-to-home-video budget, but it is used efficiently and often has some amazingly high quality animation, as well as a superbly chosen voice cast. Marvel is dominating the box office while DC is hit and miss, and I think a well placed animated movie could be a great selling point for DC.

Batman Killing Joke

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, I’m not a comic book guy. But even I’ve heard about the Killing Joke. It’s one of the darkest and also the greatest Batman story arcs out there. There’s a reason why it’s reportedly the only comic book Tim Burton had read before doing his Batman, and it was the comic given to Heath Ledger by Christopher Nolan before the Dark Knight. And it’s a story that would easily convince two of the greatest Batman related voice-actors to reprise their iconic roles with both Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. Fans of the animation will rejoice in that casting, and people who aren’t in the know don’t need a marquee name to sell Batman, Batman is his own marquee name. DC Animation has also been slowly pushing the limits of what is allowed in an animated PG-13 rating, there is quite a bit of violence in both the Dark Knight Returns and the Flashpoint Paradox. I would imagine that to do the Killing Joke the right way, it would have to be rated “R”, and I think that’s a good idea. It would help to sell DC’s darker image, and it would allow them to continue the trend in their animated home video releases. Not only that, but the marketing for this movie would help to boost the awareness and sales of their already released titles. I also think that this would be the perfect title to be released in theaters under an “R” rating because of the fact that the word “killing” is right there in the title, so clueless parents would have little reason to think that because it’s “Batman” that it’s automatically ok for kids to watch.

According to the estimates on IMDB, these animated features have a $3 million budget. The animation and voice acting is already just about where it needs to be, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to expand the budget to $10-15 million. The lengths of these features usually run 75 minutes, so that would need to be expanded to 90-100 minutes, or even a little more which would be about the length of both parts of the Dark Knight Returns. Even if it’s a hard sell, there’s no way it doesn’t walk away with $40-50 million at the box office, minimum. Plus all the eventual sales of the DVD/Blu-ray and the higher profile of all their current and future titles. What do you say, are you listening DC? Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 300 superhero and comic book movies in the past four years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on August 30, 2013, in Blogs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. That would be an excellent pick, bw.

  2. Best. Batman. Story. Ever. Even if you aren’t a comic book guy, I would suggest running out and reading everything else that Alan Moore has ever written.

    Also, I’m with you, they should definitely turn Killing Joke into an animated movie, but I don’t think it will ever happen. I think that an R-rated animated Batman movie is about the last thing on the minds of the WB suits. Right now a corporate mentality is governing Hollywood, and it will only get worse.

    • I don’t know, have you watched their recent movies? They are really pushing the limits of a PG-13 rating and telling darker and more mature storylines. And I plan on getting to more of the iconic runs in the near future. I did read Watchmen recently for the first time.

      • Nolan’s trilogy was incredibly intelligent and dark, and Man of Steel was also a step in the right direction. I hope as you do that the trend continues to its logical conclusion. If these darker, more serious superhero films continue to do well, we might see The Killing Joke one day. I think the Batman/Superman mashup will be a bellwether.

        It will only take one or two box-office disappointments for the suits at WB to lose thier courage. I can’t help but remember, back in the day, when Tim Burton’s revolutionary (for its time) approach was jettisoned in favor of Joel Shumacher’s unfortunate version of the mythology.

      • Although the Schumacher sequels were both bigger than Burton’s in the Box Office. It’s all cyclical though I do think it will continue to get darker before turning around to lighter fare once again. Time will tell.

  3. Yep, I agree that this is definitely one that needs to be made! Love this idea and I really hope that DC does this…quickly!

    Great article my friend. I love it

  4. I’m really skeptical about whether they’d dare to do an R-rated superhero cartoon in the theatres — the “cartoons are for kids” and “superhero movies are for kids” misconceptions are still pretty strong, and they would indeed be very hard sells. It’s possible, though, and I’d love to see it happen — not just for the sake of that specific film (and I agree, The Killing Joke would be a great choice), but for the sake of pushing those boundaries and further eroding those misconceptions.

    I also think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about Batman not needing a marquee name because he is a marquee name. After all, Christian Bale didn’t make Batman Begins big… Batman Begins made Christian Bale big.

    • The misconception is exactly why I think the Killing Joke would be a great choice, it’s a lot harder to mistake a title like that as a kids movie. It’s a risk I doubt they’ll take, but I wish they would.

  5. The Killing Joke is almost tatilor-made for the film medium. It’s short, and it reads like the storyboards for a movie. And yes, it could be a watershed film that changes the way that adults look at the comic book medium. Like you, I want to see more superhero films with gravitas; I’ve been waiting all my life for these characters to finally be treated like the gods on Earth they are. But among comic book enthusiasts there is a mentality based around the proposition that dark always equals good. I am as guilty of this type of thinking as anyone, but if I am honest with myself I have to admit that it isn’t true. While WB is clearly positioning its superhero franchise as a darker alternative to the Marvel stuff, that could backfire after a few films. If people are given the choice between revisiting a cheerful universe (like the one inhabited by the Avengers) or a dark, humorless one, I think that they might prefer the one with the jokes. If WB is smart it will find a balance, and tackle some lighter works as well. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that adult does not have to mean the complete absence of light. Read Alan Moore’s Top 10. It’s sophisticated, but breezy and cheerful.

    • Sorry, not sure how I missed this comment earlier. I agree that darker isn’t always better, and I’m much more likely to rewatch Iron Man or the Avengers than anything in the Dark Knight trilogy. I still think that the Killing Joke is a good way to go for them, but I also think that it should be offset by something like Plastic Man or a lighter Flash movie. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Honestly Bubba, I cannot understand why DC & WB does’t give over the reins of their live action movie franchises to the creative teams behind ALL the Animated Movie Universe.

    UNDER THE RED HOOD was one of the most matured, layered and amazing Batman stories I’ve seen on film. It took an existing comic canon story, created history and backstory with existing characters, while still making it dark and layered enough that it’s accessible to a new audience. That kind of storytelling is what the live action DC film franchise desperately NEEDS!

    I agree that there should be a DCAU theatrical release. I believe even more though, that the writing team of the DCAU (at least), should be given a shot at a live action adaptation of one of the DC Hero films.

    • That’s another interesting way to tie the two worlds together. While the live action DC movies have been hit or miss (and the jury is mixed on Man of Steel), the animation has been consistently great, or at the very least good.

  1. Pingback: DC Animation Should Make a Theatrical Feature and it Should be … | AnimeFan.org

  2. Pingback: Batman: The Killing Joke | Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights

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