Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Review of The Killing Joke (2016)

Written by Brian Azzarello And Alan Moore
Directed by Sam Liu

Barbara: "Why are you doing this?"
The Joker: "To prove a point."

This has been something of an interesting month for DC, hasn't it? We've had Suicide Squad rock up in the cinemas and give the middle finger to Guardian readers while Batman V. Superman and Gotham's second season have released on DVD and the current Rebirth titles continue apace and then there's this.

The straight to DVD (but also briefly in cinemas) release adaptation of Alan Moore's controversial 1988 comic has finally arrived and not so shockingly enough, it's managed to be as polarising as the source material itself and not just because of that. Nope, this particular movie managed to even something new to cause some division among the comic's fans and critics alike.

Not surprisingly though, the controversy is still centred on the treatment of Barbara Gordon in this adaptation. In the comic, she's shot by the Joker and photographed naked in a bid to drive Commissioner Gordon to the brink of madness and while I've always hated that treatment of Barbara here, I've also found the double standards surrounding it quite maddening as well. I can't help thinking the same people who lose it over Barbara's treatment are the same ones who never batted an eyelid when Jason was being tortured and killed by the Joker as well in Death Of The Family but that's for another discussion.

This adaptation however decides to correct some of the comic's flaws by not making Barbara an entire victim in this movie. With the last scene nicely setting up her future as Oracle, the first half an hour of this actually focuses on her escapades as Batgirl and the cat and mouse games she has with an upstart gangster named Parry, whose lust for Batgirl is nothing short of irritating to be honest.

It's also during this segment that her relationship with Batman is given some of the most thorough of focus as he fears that she's getting far too in over her head. Her eventual attack on Parry makes Batgirl realise that her mentor might be onto something when she decides to hand over her cowl and take a break from crime fighting.

The 'controversy' though isn't that Batgirl showed some recklessness with a low level thug but more that her and Batman engaged in some rather public sex and things became awkward afterwards with the pair of them. I've never liked the idea of a Batman/Batgirl pairing (something which Batman Beyond and earlier animated shows alluded to) and I definitely didn't like it here. It's definitely something that no-one wanted and ultimately doesn't add anything into the mix as well.

As for the rest of the movie, it's more or less a faithful adaptation between Joker's brutal attack on Barbara, attempting to drive James Gordon mad and of course his confrontation with Batman at the amusement park and the Red Hood flashbacks. As a backstory, I've always preferred Joker's to be more ambiguous and even here he admits to remembering whatever is convenient for him. Ending the thing on a laugh from Batman was an interesting creative choice in the comic and it translates well into this movie as well.

Cast wise, Tara Strong is excellent as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and similarly both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill continue to be on fine form as both Batman and the Joker alike. The animation is pretty top notch as well, capturing the comic's look pretty well throughout the whole thing. The musical sequence falls a little flat but it's still an interesting moment though.

- The popularity of this announcement resulted in this getting a two day cinema release. How cool was that?
- There was images of the Jokers from both the 1989 Batman movie and The Dark Knight. Nice one.
- Barbara got a sassy gay best friend named Reese during her scenes in the library. We never met Colleen in this movie though.
- Harley Quinn was rumoured to have appeared in this movie. Given that Suicide Squad sort of alluded to her having a role in Jason's death in their universe, maybe they missed a trick here.

This was always going to be a polarising adaptation but honestly, I think aside from the needless Batgirl/Batman subplot, this was a pretty swift adaptation. It's not a perfect one but then again, neither is the source material but with some stunning performances from Strong, Conroy and Hamill, it's definitely a worthy addition to the collection.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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