Let me start right off the bat (no pun intended) and say that I am not a fan of The Killing Joke. I recognize it’s importance and artistic value but it is something I have never loved. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it but it’s not one of my favorites. With all of that out of the way, when The Killing Joke was announced as being an animated movie with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as Bruce Wayne/Batman and The Joker respectively, I was excited to see the movie. So how did I ultimately like it?
It was entertaining but I cannot say that I loved it. Going into the movie, you would be surprised that The Killing Joke proper doesn’t start until about a third of the way into the movie. Instead we get an original story detailing the relationship between Batman and Batgirl and what made her decide to get being a superhero. This is highly controversial element as this movie establishes Batman and Batgirl having a sexual encounter…costumed at that. The producers have said that this is used to further fuel Batman’s desire to bring The Joker to justice later but it is head scratching. I can see why Batgirl is included more. The original story she is hardly in it and if one is unfamiliar with who Commissioner Gordon’s daughter is, you probably won’t think much of the young woman The Joker shoots. There is something very odd about making Batman and Batgirl lovers but the segment does tie into the larger story. Batgirl has a criminal who is obsessed with her and Batman knows a thing or two about an obsessed villain.
When The Killing Joke proper starts, it is beat for beat the original story. Not much is changed here in this. This is when the movie starts to shine and crack at the same time. Since it is a straightforward adaptation, there is not much new added to the story. Depending on how you feel about the original comic book, this can be a good thing or bad thing. So you can find yourself not as involved if you are familiar with the story. But if you’re fresh, it can be deeply engaging.
But this is when the voice talent really starts to shine. This is Mark Hamill’s show. He has played The Joker on and off for about twenty five years now and this is the first time where we see a different side of The Joker. Anyone familiar with the story, we see what The Joker was like before he became The Joker. Hamill has to portray an ordinary man who we know is The Joker but not actually The Joker yet. The small differences in his voice are subtle but there. There is an air of normality to his voice but the film switches between then and now and you see the difference a night of tragedy had on this man.
Kevin Conroy is still bright as ever as Batman. His interactions with Mark Hamill are when he shines the most. The final confrontation between the two is one that is heartbreaking and the two convey this perfectly. Just like their characters, Conroy and Hamill have a strong history with one another and it comes out through their performance. If you know the story, you know there is a particular moment that Batman does something that Batman hardly ever does. Even though Conroy has portrayed Batman for as long as Hamill, he still has something new to bring to the role.
The story is still the same and has the same ambiguity that the comic book has as well. The animation is solid if not stunning. The movie is much more psychological so it is okay if there is not much more of pop to the animation. Even though this is not the final performances of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and The Joker, it does work as one. This is the story that the two have been working towards since they started playing the roles. The film is highly enjoyable but I still had the same problems that I had with the original comic book. The Batgirl prologue is interesting but it still does ring of filler so the product as a whole is brought down. So if you’re a fan it can go either way but it still as a whole and one filled with two great performances.