BlokeBusting The Essentials #47: The Killing Joke
#47: The Killing Joke
The Day The Clown Died?
We’re back and ready to review another superhero film. And we’ve already covered 3 Bat-related movies, so naturally we’re on to another one! But this one is the first animated film we’ve covered, so let’s see if it holds up to the others (not a particularly high bar, but still)! And this, more than any we’ve covered so far, will have SPOILERS. So fair warning.
I knew a bit about this story before I hit play. I’ve gained a fair bit of comic knowledge through general osmosis, be it from friends or the inter-webs. So I came into this film already knowing the ending. I also know that the backstory that we get for The Joker in this film has been one of many woven throughout the years, and as such is not definitive canon. However, for the critique of this film, we shall assume that what we were shown is what the directors intended to be the truth for their characters. So, let’s see what’s what.
The world of Batman is very well established. So it’s always nice to not have any explanation for the city being the way it is. So, that’s a plus already. And the way that this film is half told through Batgirl and half normal narrative is also a nice change. The only odd thing is that there were a couple of times where they went so long between narration in the first half of the film that I forgot that we were technically watching “The Past” from the narrative perspective. But that’s not too bad either, since it meant that I was more drawn to the story unfolding than remembering exactly when I was supposed to be. So far, so good!
I feel that your take-away from this film will entirely come from your personal taste in Batman lore. So let’s go over the main 3, shall we?
Batgirl: From what I can recall, most canon universes (yeah, I’m not fully versed in every single version of Batman, so sorry if I get things wrong here!) do have Batgirl being paralysed by Joker and then becoming Oracle, which they cover here. However, my issue with Batgirl is that I never really clicked with her when watching this film. I think it’s possibly the fact that the character is essentially an obsessed Batman groupie wannabe for half the film and then a scorned lover for the next 1/4 of the film. And, again, that’s fairly true in the comics too. It’s just not my thing.
Batman: He’s Batman. There’s really not much here that isn’t the usual fare for Batman. He’s stoic, he’s gruff and he’s got about as much tact as a restaurant sign stating “We don’t serve *insert slur* here”. However, the final scene of the film is a real stand-out performance. As with in the comic version, we are left with only Batman laughing and must draw our own conclusions. Many like to think that he kills Joker, causing his sudden stop in laughter and giving the title more meaning. Others simply see it as the two (especially Bats) finally accepting their respect for each other and letting loose. Either way, it was a nice surprise and it felt earned. Well done!
Joker: In this, we get a Joker origin story. Not THE origin story, but a story. I’m of the opinion that we will never actually get a definitive origin, and I’m fine with that. Anything we get to explain him just takes away from the pure joy of watching a madman with nothing to lose and every screw loose. So I’m here to tell you that I did not enjoy his origin tale in this. It slowed the film down and I didn’t feel that they even did it very well. The gangsters were less than one-dimensional, the pre-Joker Joker is pretty boring and it’s only when he finally snaps that you get interested again. So yeah, 75% of Joker in this film is great. And, of course, the ending is a joy to watch.
This gets its own heading? You bet it does. Despite how you may feel about the rest of the film, or how indifferent you are to some of the characters, this part of the film really works. You get to see EXACTLY how sadistic and unhinged Joker really is here. He doesn’t even have Harley to do some of his bidding (He’s even worse with her at times, just look up what he did in The New 52 storyline) in this film. It’s pure Joker. And even when he realises that he failed, he’s so unhinged that he just accepts it and moves right along. For most villains, that would seem like a cop-out. But for Joker, it’s just right. So, even if you don’t feel like watching the whole film, just watch everything from Joker shooting Barbara onwards. It’s grim, it’s horrific and it’s some of the best Batman stuff you’ll watch.
Ok guys, it’s time to see if Bubbawheat still feels the same as last time. I’m just as intrigued as you, so let’s hand him the mic!
“Over to you B!”I
When this movie first came out, I really wanted to watch it in theaters, but when I was getting ready to go to the theater, my car overheated and I had to take it to a repair shop and make a repair that I couldn’t afford at the time. So fun. But as for the actual movie, I don’t have experience with the original comic though I did write an opinion piece a few years before this came out calling for DC to release this as their first R rated theatrical animated film and I’m glad they did. As for the actual quality of the film itself, I’m a little torn. I appreciate that they gave Barbara Gordon as Batgirl a bigger piece of the story to make her less of a prop and more of a character. The problem is that she became more of a victim. Not only is she a victim of Joker’s gunshot wound and exploitation as part of Joker’s torture of Jim Gordon, but now she’s also a victim of the gangster Paris as well as a victim of Batman himself as he becomes part of a toxic relationship. Once it gets into the actual Killing Joke story proper, things pick up as we focus on the Batman/Joker relationship. The backstory is ok but nothing too special. It just seems to take away from the Joker’s mystique and give him some undeserved pathos that it never expands on. The action and character beats outside of those couple major issues are great, but for many people, it’s difficult to overlook those.
As far as this film’s importance in the realm of superhero cinema, this was the first R-rated DC Animated title and the first DC animated movie since Mask of the Phantasm to be released in theaters. It was released through Fathom events and it pre-sold so many tickets that they had to add an extra day to the showings and it became Fathom’s biggest selling movie event ever to-date. It made nearly $4M in a limited 2-day release window. The original comic that it was based on is one of the more famous Batman stories as it was written by the notorious Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. While the story itself was a one-shot and not exactly considered canon, Barbara’s spinal injury within this story became canon and she became the very popular wheelchair-bound Oracle. It also won Eisner Awards the year it came out and has repeatedly entered the top selling comics list pretty much every time a new Batman film featuring the Joker comes out, including 2008’s Dark Knight as well as 2016’s Suicide Squad which came out the same year as this film. While the film itself may be in the midrange in terms of quality for the animated DC films, the story itself is a big deal for Batman both for its comic and this movie itself. And now, back to Paul.
Alrighty. I’m back and it’s time for our 3 questions. You know, THOSE questions:
1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?
As Batman might say, “Let’s get this party started…”
1) Yes. Definitely not everyone, as there are some parts that could be hard to watch, but I do think that Batman fans NEED to watch this film. If for nothing else, as you probably guessed, than to watch Joker getting up to his absolute worst.
2) Yes I do. The lengths that this film goes to is impressive. It can be slow and it can be a little dull at times, but the final act more than makes up for it. It’s a brilliant adaptation of the source material and (of course) has more than enough of Heroes Vs Villains fighting to tick the box pretty much by default.
3) Well, before we get started here I would like to bring up a comment from the previous review. Somebody made a good point that my Death Of The Incredible Hulk review was possibly skewed since I had no previous experience with the show. And they were right. However, I do stand by my final decision since I make it based entirely on the film itself. Once we reach the end of this run, I will happily check out the other ones they suggested and see if they can sway me. So please do comment if you feel I’ve erred. I am, as most of us are, only human!
So, the rankings. As of today, they stand thusly:
1) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
2) Batman: The Killing Joke
3) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
5) Batman & Robin
6) The Amazing Spider-Man
7) BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
Why is this under DHSAB? Mostly because despite the fantastic final act, the rest of the film just feels less worthy. It’s too slow at times, most of the characters are instantly forgettable and you just want to see Joker taking on Batman or Batgirl instead of whoever you’re watching when he’s not there. However, as I stated above, it’s a great adaptation and that ending needs to be respected!
So yeah, that’s it for now. We’ll be back next month with Superman 3 (and I have a very random thing to mention when we do so!), so look out for that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a flashlight to turn off!