Based on the Brian Miller graphic novel of the same name, the film does everything it can in its animation and storytelling to leave the audience uncomfortable and afraid – and I loved it for that. While it’s primarily a direct-to-DVD film (much like the rest of the Warner Brother’s DC animated films), it did have some special screenings at select cinemas, one of which I was lucky to attend. I will attempt to avoid spoilers in this review as much as I can.
First off, I’ll gloss over the parts I didn’t like, such as the random (and frankly dumb) sex-scene near the beginning (which has garnered some controversy from die-hard fans at comic-con), the strange musical number the Joker has, and the somewhat rocky (but still satisfying) conclusion. Now that that’s glossed over, on to what made the film great.
The film actually opens with a long forward by Mark Hamill, talking about how he got into acting and how, in 1992 for the animated Batman series, got cast to voice the joker, and even reprising his voice for the Arkham video games. He then talks about how over the years the character has evolved into the sadistic monster we all know, that person that “completes” Batman as Hamill said. The way Hamill seems to do both the Joker and the man the Joker used to be (via flashbacks) is evidence of his chameleonic voice. Of course, Mark Hamill isn’t the only great voice actor – Kevin Conroy once again does Batman (who also did Batman in the 90s animated series), and Tara Strong, who you may recognize from “Teen Titans”, “Teen Titans Go”, “My Little Pony”, “The Powerpuff Girls”, and many other animated works. Everyone does exceptional work.
The animation seemed very much like a Japanese animated film, in the way the characters moved around a room and in a fight scene. This fits with the dark and gritty nature of the film, especially once the Joker’s psychological tortures are shown.
The story itself had to be expanded on due to how short the graphic novel was, and so I guess that was why the film started by following Batgirl (Tara Strong) as she joins Batman on an investigation, also showing where she works and interacts with other people. It seemed very much like Batman was a side-character in his own film, which actually worked – seeing as very few people know anything about Barbara Gordon but everything about Bruce Wayne. It was good to give her the limelight for a while. However, then, the Joker has broken out again and almost an entirely new and unrelated story begins. This seemed quite odd but I guess an audience would need to understand more about how a person acts and feels, or else the terrible things that happen won’t mean anything to an audience.
The Joker, of course, seems to do everything in his power to break people, force them over the abyss, and show what could happen to a person after “bad day”, which is accentuated by the flashbacks to the man the Joker used to be. However, we can really only guess how much of that was actually his past and not his mind giving him, as he said, “multiple choices”.
The film actually ends in a surprisingly hopeful tone, giving the indication that despite all the pain, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But that isn’t why we go to see a film called “The Killing Joke”, we went to see the worst of the worst of Batman’s villains do horrible things, and that was exactly what we got.