Review: Batman: The Killing Joke (Comic Con 2016)
PLOT: As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.
REVIEW: Well this is a film that has been a very long time coming. Since Alan Moore's acclaimed graphic novel "Batman: The Killing Joke" released in 1988, fans around the world have been aching for the chance that one day it would be adapted into a live action/animated film. The very nature of the story and its dark roots almost begged for it as it was certainly a Batman story that no one had ever seen or was prepared for. Many elements of the story have since become canon such as the paralysis of Barbara Gordon at the hands of the Joker (later becoming Oracle) and much more. So when the massive expansion of the DC movie/TV universe in recent years finally came along, many fans wondered if this dark and gritty story would ever be brought to light as a stand-alone film and who would be the talent behind it. Suffice to say, it was in very safe hands.
So lets get this review going. As fans are aware, legendary actors Kevin Conroy (the greatest Batman ever) and Mark Hamill (the greatest Joker ever) return to lend their voices to arguably the most famous hero and villain combo in the history of comic books. It should be noted that Mark Hamill once said that even if he was retired from voice acting for the Joker, he would return in a heartbeat if it meant adapting "The Killing Joke". He stayed true to his word and he and Conroy were also joined by voice alumni Tara Strong as Barbara Gord/Batgirl and Ray Wise as Commissioner Gordon. Together along with producer Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series) and director Sam Liu, they've created what I think was a wonderful adaptation to Alan Moore's original vision along with some interesting added plot elements that weren't present in the original graphic novel.
Right off the bat, lets address the elephant in the room...the nearly 30 minutes of Batgirl prologue. Yes I know that this has already brought up a shit load of controversy amongst fans as it's not part of the original graphic novel and seems completely pointless to the story. Well I'm here to say that those fans...are kinda right. The thing is though that the graphic novel is a relatively short one and expanding on Batgirl's relationship with Batman did seem like the way to go on extending the storyline. Do I think they took it a bit far (without spoiling it completely)? Yes I do think so. However once the film shifted back to the origins of Joker as the Red Hood (in flashbacks) and his battle with Batman and the torture of Commissioner Gordon, that's where the film exceeded all expectations. I think they just expanded on Barbara also so that the impact of the events towards the last third of the film had a greater impact on the audience which I can understand.
As I just mentioned the film is an extremely faithful adaptation of the graphic novel when it isn't focused so much on Barbara, right down to the animation design and structure of the plot. The best strength of this film however hands down in the voice talent behind it. Kevin Conroy is in top form returning as Bruce Wayne (we never do see him as Bruce Wayne in the film) and of course Mark Hamill as Joker. In "The Killing Joke" however, Batman and Joker are not the slightly dark yet fun characters that they were in the Animated Series and instead a menacing duo who will stop at nothing to stop the other, even if that means blood being spilled. Mark Hamill is the same maniacal Jpker we remember from the Animated Series but with a mark more menacing twist to match the graphic novel. Tara Strong also returns to voice Batgirl and gives a great performance as usual. They inject Batgirl's character with a form of innocence when it comes to how far she'll go to be by Batman's side versus her everyday normal life as a librarian/tech wizard.
In terms of the technicals for the film, this is where it is a bit plagued also. As many saw from the original trailers, the animation style and motion didn't really appear to be up to par like say with the insanely awesome two-part "The Dark Knight Returns" films. The CG animation is very spotty at times and the rate of motion really gave the film a feeling of cheapness at times. Other times however it looked stunning so it was rather inconsistent. That being said, the music score is absolutely fantastic and truly elevates the film, especially in the third act when the caped crusader faces off with Joker.
Bottom line, when the film is focused on the original graphic novel, it's stellar. The animation is a tad lacking at times and the extended Batgirl prologue is a bit rough but it wasn't enough for me not to really enjoy the film. I'm looking forward to seeing it again.