The Killing Joke is cemented in the upper pantheon of comic books. It’s a classic story, loved the world round for delving into the psyche of The Joker. Unfortunately, the feature-length movie can’t deliver like it’s graphic novel counterpart.
By Jay Hunter – Opening with Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, the Killing Joke’s first 30-minutes acts as a prologue. We watch as she attempts to find where she fits in as Batman’s sidekick, a relationship which becomes more complicated as it turns romantic. On paper, this was a masterstroke from director Sam Liu, in theory the more time we spend with the character the more gravitas it will lend to the events that readers know will transpire later on in the story. The reality however is Barbara is painted as a sexualised plot device and little more. Not only does this leave a sour taste in the viewers mouth, but it also stains the character of Batman.
Many critics consider the graphic novel to be the definitive Joker story and one of the best Batman stories ever published. The story won the Eisner Award for ‘Best Graphic Album’ in 1989 and appeared on The New York Times Best Seller List in May 2009. Along with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as Batman and The Joker respectively, The Killing Joke had all the elements to become an instant classic. The movie does just fine when it sticks to the source material, however as a viewer my relationship with the story felt fractured by the time I arrived at the familiar story.
Much was made about the movies ‘R-Rating’ before the release, with a plethora of sexual violence and blood The Killing Joke certainly makes good on that promise. Unfortunately the original novels themes are watered down by new topics, which makes for a convoluted story.