The Killing Joke Movie Review

Some jokes have punchlines that are so memorable we carry them with us long after they’ve been told. Whether the punchlines are simple and easy to remember, or make us laugh more than we have in a long time, powerful jokes make can make huge impacts on our lives even if they only take a few moments to tell.

Monday night I went to a special screening of Warner Bros. new animated batman film: The Killing Joke presented by fathom events.

The movie is inspired by the critically acclaimed graphic novel of the same name written by Alan Moore and published in 1988. In addition to the original source material, the filmmakers opened the film with an extended story focusing on Batgirl. Furthermore, fathom events presented two short documentaries along with the screening. The first, occurring before the film, was a short interview with Mark Hamill, voice of the Joker, filmed in London in 2016. Hamill discussed the course of his career from his first audition for Star Wars to when he received the role of the Joker for Batman the animated series to when he announced his retirement from the role. The second short documentary occurred after the film, describing how the score for the film was made.

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The opening minutes of the film concentrated on Batgirl were action-packed.  They provided the audience with more context for her character, which helped raise the stakes later on in the movie. While the story definitely added to the film, some scenes took away from the main story, as side characters needed to be introduced, but didn’t show up in the main story. Overall the scenes should have focused on the relationship between Batgirl and Batman even more, as to not take away from the joker’s story arc.

The voice performances in the film do the source material justice. Mark Hamill, who had retired after the Batman: Arkham games . . . multiple times, finally returned, as he had promised he would if the graphic novel were ever made into a feature film. Hamill turns in one of his greatest performances, as he tries to convince Batman he’s no different from anyone else, and everyone is one bad day away from madness. Hamill voices the joker prior to his conversion, a meek, failed comedian. Somehow, the two voices sound exactly the same, yet one is weak and frightened, and the other is menacing, making Hamill’s final bow a strong one.

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Hamill is joined by his classic counterpart Kevin Conroy, who reprises the role of batman for the umpteenth time. The two have great chemistry in perhaps the story that examines the relationship between the characters best. Tara Strong also performs well as batgirl, making the transition between the two story arcs well.

The animation is strong and frequently makes visual references to the graphic novel, such as the famous joker laugh, hands on his head. The images shown can be terrifying at times, but also remain visually appealing. A defeated Gordon sitting still, hugging his knees in a cage, while the joker sits cackling above him, triumphant on his throne, comes to mind.

At the end of the film, a few people were laughing, but most were sitting quietly in horror, as the credits rolled to only the sound of rain hitting the ground and thunder in the distance.

It was the kind of joke that sticks with you, despite not being so funny.

The film Batman: The Killing Joke is available on amazon and itunes.

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