Friday 2 September 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke

The graphic novel of ‘The Killing Joke’ was already a rather controversial story when it came out, and the newest film version, directed by Sam Liu, has definitely brought that back to life.

Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Batgirl (Tara Strong) have joined forces to fight crime in Gotham, with Batman showing Batgirl the ropes. However, things get a bit out of hand whilst trying to track down the dangerous thief Paris Franz (Maury Sterling), and Batman’s lack of faith in Batgirl’s skillset becomes all too apparent to her. For reasons unknown to anyone watching the film, the two embark on some sexy Bat-time, leading to Batman completely ignoring Batgirl, and a lot of content that suddenly seems more ‘The Only Way Is Gotham’.

Then the good bits start to happen – the Joker (Mark Hamill) escapes from Arkham Asylum and comes up with a crazy plan to destroy the mind of Commissioner Gordon (Ray Wise). We get to relive those pivotal moments that push the Joker away from him sanity, and it’s these bits that really add something to the film. Along with these flashbacks, we also get to witness some beautiful animation that really shines during the action scenes – they’re fast and clever, and at points I felt as if I was reading the comic, rather than watching the screen.

Unfortunately, the modification of Batgirl’s character really lets the rest of the film down. In the original graphic novel (written by Alan Moore), Batgirl was, sadly, just a plot device used to move the story on and give Commissioner Gordon some form of motivation. It wasn’t great, but I wasn’t expecting the film to weaken her character even more. On top of this, she now brings an unwanted element of chick flick, which combines disastrously with the dark and moody tone of the rest of the scenes. After an exciting opening scene we end up looking at the finer points of Batman’s and Batgirl’s relationship with one another for far longer than we really need to, when really the focus should be on Batman and the Joker.

This doesn’t mean that this relationship isn’t focused on though – there’s a lot of exploration of how the two have come to be, and this works really well. The Joker’s personality comes through a lot, and we get to experience both his anxious, nervous self before and his manic, crazy self afterwards. These are the bits I really love within superhero franchises, and so I’m glad that at least some of the running time was focused on something important.

If only Batman could have been as well developed… so little time was spent on Batman that it was almost as if he wasn’t a major character. I think I learnt more about Franz than I did Batman, which is a shame considering he doesn’t really have a pivotal role in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t feel like the animation should have been any longer than it is already, but there were definitely parts that could have been made more concise.

The soundtrack was great but the voice acting was okay at best, and the plot was nowhere near as good as it should have been. If you were a fan of the original comic, then I’d probably just re-read that instead.

I give it a 2/5.

Hannah Read

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