FILM REVIEW- Batman: The Killing Joke

Whenever a film stirs controversy, it usually results in one or more things: the film gets more attention, more people go out to see it, and more people call the subject of the controversy as either ruining the movie or nothing to worry about. I’m calling the latter in this case.

Batman: The Killing Joke, the R-rated animated adaptation of the classic graphic novel, arrives today on VOD (video-on-demand). Much has been said amongst media outlets and others who saw the film at San Diego Comic-Con about the controversial scene. I won’t lie, all the negative press made my expectations shift. Upon seeing the film, I can say it’s good, nothing legendary, but just good. It’s certainly made for a specific audience.

The film is essentially two smaller movies mashed into one. Part one is a 30-minute long prologue sequence taking place before the events of the comic and part 2 is the adapted comic in its entirety. The film doesn’t really try and connect both parts together, except to say part two takes place after part one.

Most of part one is centered around Batgirl (Tara Strong), who’s tracking down a local mob gang along with Batman himself. This whole prologue sequence is rather bland and doesn’t add anything to the story. I can understand what the filmmakers were thinking making a prologue about Batgirl, trying to flesh out her character and give her more of a story. It’s a promising concept but the execution comes across as more generic than anything.

And towards the end we come upon the so-called “controversial” scene. I won’t say what it is, but some fans probably overreacted by rating this movie so low because of it. Funny enough, producer Bruce Timm recently explained overreactions were one of the ideas behind the scene itself. Personally I really didn’t mind the scene. It’s very quick and only one mention is made afterwards. Besides, the actual Killing Joke section is what sticks with you more.

Onto part two, which is what most of the fans were waiting for. The adaptation is done very well, lifting all the scenes and lines off the comic book and adding new moments, like a musical number which fits with the sequence it’s in. My only complaint was that it seemed rather quick compared to the first part, cutting from scene to scene with very little time to breath. If you don’t know who voices Batman and Joker by now, go look it up. Suffice to say, both characters are done justice and fans finally get to hear some famous monologues said on screen.

The animation is smooth and fluid throughout save for some moments where it appears to freeze before cutting to the next frame. Sound design is excellent but at moments the music is drowned out by all the noise. Sam Liu gives good direction throughout, although as I said earlier, part two is rather quick for my tastes.

Batman: The Killing Joke wastes 30 minutes of film that could have been removed and the film would’ve worked fine as a 45-minute long feature. The last 45 minutes are done so well, however, that I almost forgot about the first part by the time the credits rolled. Part two’s breakneck speed left me wanting more and some of the animation throughout the film looks a little choppy but the product as a whole was good. If you wanted a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel to the screen and nothing more, you have it.



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