Batman: The Killing Joke – The Ultimate FanBros Review
This week the highly anticipated animated version of Batman: The Killing Joke hit theaters for a limited theatrical release. The film tackles the controversial but seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore, which explores the idea of one bad day pushing a good man over the edge and how this feeds into the dynamic between Batman and The Joker. The book gave readers a glimpse into The Joker’s former life as a failed comedian and family man, but it also became infamous for its ugly treatment of Barbara Gordon, who is shot, paralyzed and sexually assaulted by The Joker simply to taunt Batman and Commissioner Gordon.
Batman: The Killing Joke will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 2nd, but the FanBros have got you covered with the ultimate round table review of the film. Should you cop it or not? Read on and find out!
1. What is your initial, most visceral thought or phrase that describes The Killing Joke for you?
Benhameen: Why was this made into an animated film?
Chico Leo: It’s an ugly Batman story with beautiful art.
Jamie Righetti: Women in Refrigerators.
YC: The dichotomy of how people handle “bad days,” stressful situations, pressure and dire circumstances that is explored as the through-line of the story is something that has always resonated with me.
Ty: A colossal waste of time and money.
Deadly Diva: A lot. The Killing Joke was a lot.
Boman: Warner Bros Animation has been declining in quality for a while now. The Killing Joke continues that trend. It’s a shame, because the talent working on the film, director Sam Liu, producers Bruce Tim, Alan Burrnett, Sam Register are veterans of DC animation, while Brian Azzarello is no novice writer. Something went very wrong with this movie and that’s too many smart heads in one room to not notice this wreck happening.
2. What did you think about the introduction of the “additional narrative” as noted by Bruce and Azzarello, as a way to to expand Barbara Gordon’s character beyond what it was in the The Killing Joke graphic novel?
Benhameen: I thought that it was an interesting choice to feature a prologue that gave more time to Barbara Gordon, as she is barely a footnote in the original story. Sadly this time is used to make her into a jilted girlfriend who pines over Batman for reasons unknown. She says that she finds the violence exciting but basically gets her ass handed to her quite a few times which gives strength to Bruce’s argument that she is not ready to be Batgirl. But this is negated as she also saves Batman when he gets ambushed by some goons whose only point is to act as a plot device to get Batman angry at Barbara when she beats the lead goon into submission. This scene also felt false to me as Batman had earlier hit a man with the Batmobile right before he tortures him for information. That’s not even going into Batman straight up killing a couple of little people later on in the film.
Chico Leo: Two men in their mid-fifties flexing their fantasies and resentments through the character and voice of a young woman in a story full of older men. What could possibly go wrong?
Jamie: Initially, it sounded like a great way to ground the senseless violence, to give us Batgirl, who is an intregal part of the Bat Family, and to show how she is able to rise above the tragedy and become even more important. But then I actually watched the film.
Benhameen: I’m not sure. Does agency mean that she spends most of her time wondering why Batman doesn’t like her? Cause she does that in spades.
Jamie: Had she been shown as a competent Batgirl she certainly would’ve started out with some. The mid-credits tease of Oracle attempt to give her some semblance of agency but since we don’t actually see why the character is so vital, it falls short of the mark.
Benhameen: I’m not the biggest Batgirl fan but I know that the scene in the book where she gets played like a funky piano has always been a huge sore spot for fans of her character. As well as for anyone who wonders how the Joker manages to sneak up on her this makes it worse. Barbara is newly retired, her and her father both know that the Joker is on the loose and yet they leave the front door unlocked. It’s also shown that the Joker has already killed at least one Robin so you would think Batman’s sidekicks might be on the lookout.
Chico Leo: The Killing Joke is not canon. It’s on some Earth Y continuity like Miller’s “Goddamn Batman” and Dark Knight.
Jamie: The problem is The Killing Joke was never supposed to be canon. And while it’s undeniable that Kim Yale and John Ostrander resurrecting Barbara as Oracle gave comics a much-needed jolt of inclusion, it still wasn’t supposed to be canon. But there seems to be permanence whenver we see violence against women.
YC: Barbara was not integral to this film or the original telling of The Killing Joke.
Benhameen: The fact that the original author, Alan Moore, doesn’t think this is one of his better pieces of writing and that his name isn’t anywhere to be found in the credits says a lot. I also don’t understand why if you’re going to tack on thirty extra minutes before the story why not add something to the end that gives Barbara and Batman some closure? Why was time spent on finding out that Joker always had to go see a prostitute whenever he escapes? Why are all of the women in the film either Batgirl or a prostitute? Why are the Joker’s wife and child never mentioned again? If you are going to change the original story or add on to it why not address the problems in the book instead of adding more?
Chico Leo: It’s fine. The animated universe is its own thing.
Benhameen: One thing I did like about the film is how it makes clear that Batman isn’t the flip side of the Joker and it’s not one bad day that separates the two of them. The Joker is a psychopath who has no morals code, etc. Batman has a code, and usually gives a rat’s ass about his friends and family. In this film he is more of a loner perhaps because he is suffering from Robin’s demise but he also comes off as a bit of an asshole. He sleeps with Barbara while knowing he doesn’t want her to be Batgirl. Interesting choice of deterrent.
Chico Leo: He fucked his best friend’s niece. That’s not general canon.
Jamie: Batman felt colorless in this, he was completely disengaged and even when he finds out what happened to Barbara, he seems to be acting simply because it’s his job, not because he cares. It doesn’t feel like Batman and it’s one of the areas where the source material could have been bolstered with stronger writing.
YC: It was the usual Batman portrayal, except that someone could say that he was damn near raped by Batgirl.
Benhameen: Regret. Gross. Like I could have watched something better. Does Brian Azzarello hate women or little people more?
Jamie: I just want to know who approved this and how they could be so blind to such ugly things.
Benhameen: I still loved it like I did in the book, I thought that was a great part of the book that was probably done better in The Dark Knight film. But as far as a recreation I thought that was spot on down to the colors used in the scene.
Chico Leo: It’s overshadowed by the source material’s tone deaf misogyny, which is compounded by film’s new tone deaf misogyny, which is too bad because I’m here for Mark Hammil’s Joker.
Jamie: I personally hate it. I appreciate the one bad day aspect being played out here but for me this doesn’t make The Joker scary, it makes him a loser. I never want to know who The Joker was or why he does these things.
Jamie: I was actually surprised that it didn’t play out as powerfully as it does in the graphic novel. As for the Oracle tease? It felt like a cheap party favor after watching an hour and fifteen minutes of pretty tone-deaf misogyny masquerading as “strong character development.” Keep it.