STARRING: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise, Robin Atkin Downes, John DiMaggio, Brian George, J.P Karliak, Nolan North, Maury Sterling, Fred Tatasciore, Anna Vocino, Kari Wahlgren and Rick D. Wasserman
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.
As a nephew of a crime lord has a dangerous obsession with Batgirl that pushes her to her dark side, Batman discovers that The Joker has escaped from Arkham Asylum, who attacks the Gordon family and goes to great lengths to prove his point that an ordinary man is just ‘one bad day’ from becoming like him.
Batman: The Killing Joke is the latest DC animated feature to be released and arguably the most anticipated since The Dark Knight Returns two-parter five years ago. The film is based on the one shot graphic novel written by Alan Moore back in 1988, with critics claiming over the years that the graphic novel to be the definitive Joker story and one of the best Batman stories ever published. With news surfacing last year that this was being adapted into an animated feature and this year it was confirmed that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were returning to voice Batman and The Joker, alongside Tara Strong as Batgirl, my anticipation for the film increased with the voice talent alone.
Thankfully the voice acting is the films key strength, particularly from Mark Hamill as The Joker. The trademark maniacal laugh that I grew up with from the Batman: The Animated Series onwards and Hamill gets to show more range with his voice performance as we go through the flashbacks of the characters origins and how he came to be. The highlights from the graphic novel are literally brought to life in animation and provide the films most engaging moments as it reaches its climax and the ending that people still debate on to this day.
The issue that I have, and I’m some of you have seen this from other people, the opening prologue with Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is the greatest weakness with Batman: The Killing Joke. I get the intention when Bruce Timm mentioned before release that they would be giving Batgirl more to do in order for her pivotal scene brought to life from the graphic novel to have a bigger impact in animated form, her arc takes up around a third of the films duration and it feels very sluggish. The way that Timm/Liu make Barbara Gordon relevant to the story feels poorly handled and with one particular scene between Batgirl and Batman, they may have managed to have alienated some fans from seeing the rest of the film due to how poorly misplaced it feels with the nature of the film. It may have been hinted way back in the Batman Beyond series but seeing it is a whole lot different. While I got used to the animation style after a while, especially with how it was handled in the action sequences, some will find it stiff and jarring.
It’s a shame to say that I’m disappointed with Batman: The Killing Joke. When it recreates the pages from the graphic novel, I was riveted. When the film spends too long however focusing on a Batgirl prologue that is created to serve a greater impact for a pivotal moment, they manage to do more harm than good with the characterisation of Barbara Gordon that some will find unforgivable. Once again however, Mark Hamill is terrific as The Joker. 5/10