After months and months of waiting for Batman: The Killing Joke, it finally landed just over a week ago, and people have lost their minds. Overall it’s an amazing portrayal of one of the most well-known and loved Batman stories, written by Alan Moore (although you’ll never see him in the credits).
Warner Brothers just seems to keep getting their animated movies right; something they’ve been struggling to nail for years with their live action films, especially in the wake of the mediocre Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
So despite most people loving The Killing Joke adaptation, an overwhelmingly large number of people have complained that the first 30 minutes of the film are a waste of time.
I have to completely disagree with this.
Most people are complaining because of the fact that it’s not lifted directly from the source material. If you want a page-by-page version, there’s a cool motion comic online that you can check out, just search in YouTube.
The animated Warner Brothers adaptation of the classic story is more complex than that; and in my opinion they did an amazing job with the entire film. They’ve added dimension to the existing content by packing on layers in the first 30 minutes. There’s a character in The Killing Joke that is way more important than she appears to be in the original text, and that’s Barbara Gordon.
Call it what you may, but the brutality of what happens to her, and how it affects her, Batman, and her father, James Gordon is elevated by the initial opening. She’s given prolonged thoughts, conflict, and ideals that we see play out over the course of the first half an hour. She’s important.
In the original text, the attack on Barbara Gordon by The Joker is one of the most shocking moments in comic book history, and yet it seems kind of sidelined by the Batman/ Joker laugh-off at the end of the comic. That exchange between those two characters portrays how Batman and The Joker are simply two sides of the same coin; or that Batman is so close to being Joker-esque himself after all he has been through. It just takes one bad day, after all.
Obviously, the one major element of the original story is that we get an actual idea of who The Joker was before he became The Joker, and what pushed him over the edge. One bad day, it seems.
The Killing Joke is one of the more brilliant portrayals of the dynamic between Batman and The Joker; and also shows the integrity of Commissioner Gordon in that he refuses to physically harm The Joker beyond what’s reasonable, despite being tortured naked, and forced to see the images of his brutalized daughter.
It’s great storytelling, but this is better than the 1988 text. Yeah, that’s bold, I know. This film version makes the woman at the center of the story a real person, and gives her depth and dimension. Batman is used as a more stock character, but he is so defined already that we don’t need to see the layers as the film progresses; we get a revelation at the end, which was done to great effect in the comic as well as the animated adaptation.
I’m ready for any hate that comes out of this, but overall I can’t deny that giving more depth to the character at the center of the story was just a good call overall. I think I want to watch The Killing Joke again. That’s my evening sorted!
Let me know what you thought of Batman: The Killing Joke in the comments below. If you enjoyed this piece, don’t forget to share it.
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