Batman: The Killing Joke is half of a great movie; within the film is a fantastic adaptation of the classic graphic novel, painting a fantastic look at the struggle between Batman and the Joker, showing their similarities and the endless cycle of their conflict. Unfortunately, this part of the film is juxtaposed with an unnecessary backstory and introduction that undermines the rest of the film. While the film’s beginning does a good job at developing the character of Barbara Gordon, it feels like a completely different film than the rest of the Joker/ Batman story.
Batman/ Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong) are tracking a group of mobsters, causing tension between the two after Batman decides to operate independently. When it looks like resolution is in sight, Batman’s old nemesis the Joker (Mark Hamill) returns to wreck havoc and drive madness into the Gordon family. The film’s opening gives interesting exposition, establishing an emotional connection to Jim and Barbara Gordon, but doesn’t really connect to the second half, which sidelines the Gordons for the conflict between Batman and the Joker.
The second half of the film serves as a proper adaptation of the iconic storyline of the same name, which gives a fascinating depiction of the relationship between the Joker and Batman. The Joker’s backstory is handled very well, making him relatable and tragic in many ways, while still being a terrifying and nefarious villain. The film features less ambiguity than the graphic novel, but the choices made are well calculated and fit the direction of the story.
Batman: The Killing Joke is a strong adaptation, and while the film struggles to maintain a story that sustains an entire film, there’s some moments of brilliant characterization within the madness. Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy do excellent voice work, and the animation is both vibrant and visually striking. The film is a solid superhero adventure, and while it doesn’t quite live up to the potential, there’s more than enough quality to be an interesting film. Grade: B