The Killing Joke, an iconic comic praised for its depiction of the Joker and criticized for the way it treated Barbara Gordon. Before this movie was even announced this was always a story that DC fans felt very strongly about, some consider it a beloved classic while others see it as an example of the horrible ways female characters are treated in comics. This is also the film Mark Hamill has gone on record saying that he’d reprise the role for even after considering retiring from playing the Joker. And those are just the details surrounding the idea of a Killing Joke movie.
The problem with reviewing this movie is that it comes in two parts. One part is an adaptation of the Alan Moore comic, the other is an entirely new story about Batgirl that was added to give her a bigger role (but also to pad for time because it’s a pretty short film otherwise). This new story has been the subject of a lot of controversy and when you look up The Killing Joke on Google the articles talking about the movie are focused on this.
The Batgirl prologue is terrible and would be terrible even without the parts that make it controversial. The story is almost half an hour long and does not fit in with the rest of the movie. Not only is the story completely unrelated but the art direction looks like it belongs in a completely different Batman movie (making Batman himself look really out of place in his Killing Joke design), characters are shown using modern looking phones despite no such devices being used in the actual adaptation. In the end when it finally transitioned into the main feature I couldn’t help but think “what did any of that have to do with The Killing Joke?”
And yes lets talk about the controversial part, the fact this story is about Batgirl and Batman having an abusive relationship which eventually leads to them having sex. This didn’t come out of nowhere either, it was foreshadowed by a bunch of scenes of Barbara talking to her stereotypical gay best friend about her relationship with her “yoga teacher”. And this was supposed to be the thing that they added to make up for Barbara’s treatment in the original comic. Oh and none of this story gets referenced during the actual adaptation. I think they had good intentions in trying to expand Barbara’s role but how anyone thought the end result was a good idea is a mystery.
In contrast the actual adaptation of The Killing Joke is really good. They take the script almost word for word from the original comic and the visuals are much better than they seem in the trailer. And of course having Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy in the starring roles is what really makes this adaptation work.
Mark Hamill is particularly amazing in this. After all this time his Joker performance is still the best. Hearing these iconic Joker lines spoken by the best Joker voice is everything I wanted out of a Killing Joke movie. It’s also great to hear his take on the man the Joker was before becoming the Joker (or at least the man he remembers being at that point in time). If this really is his last time playing the Joker it’s an amazing performance to go out on.
Personally I’d recommend skipping the Batgirl prologue and just watching the actual adaptation. If you liked the original comic you’ll enjoy it, if you hated it maybe just go look up the iconic quote scenes on YouTube. And who knows, maybe they’ll release an adaptation only cut of the movie (probably not though).