Batman: The Killing Joke is probably my favorite Batman story of all time so I was pretty excited when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced a animated film adaptation and having it rated R. Here are my thoughts on the movie whether it lived up to the hype. Beware, spoilers are coming.
After watching the movie for my first time it was downright bad, and here is why. Way before the movie came out the writer, which don’t mind is the great Brian Azzerello, came out and said there will be extra content for the movie because the graphic novel itself is too short to turn into an animated full length feature. The filmmakers said they will add more Batgirl screen time so the viewer can empathize with her when she gets shot in the spine. I thought, “Cool, this is a great idea!” That was that until I watched the actual movie. The first 30 minutes made it feel like a Batgirl film while the other 45 minutes a Batman film so, it ended up being this, “Who’s movie is this?” situation. I thought the focus would still be on Batman with Batgirl showing up joking around, laughing, but screw any consistency. The filmmakers made this entire side-plot that was about a gang leader, Paris France (because Paris Texas was taken) who also has a thing for Batgirl. I don’t mind that part, he’s a pretty cool villain for what he had.
After the film screened to the public Brian Azzerello said he wanted to make Barbara more likable. He also said he wanted to make her feel like a character you would care about when she gets shot and not just a thing that gives Batman motivation to go after the Joker. Now, there is a lot wrong about that. Batgirl is a character of the comics meaning she was already a developed character that by the time you were reading the Killing Joke you did care for her. I understand this is a separate movie with no previous films to go in continuity with it, but that doesn’t apply to the comic. Next thing, is Barbara a reason why Batman goes after the Joker? Sure, but Commissioner Gordon is another character why Batman goes after the Joker. Heck, Batman wouldn’t need the Gordons getting hurt, kidnapped for him to go after the Joker. Batman was already in search of him. Overall, there is this huge irony.
For the third time I am telling you Azzerello wanted to make Batgirl more likable and more than just an object that moves the story forward. Boy did he do the opposite of that. The team working on this film made Barbara have a crush on Batman. She’s in love with him and wants Bat-babies with him. Batman wants her to drop the Paris France case because the villain has become emotionally interested in her. She gets mad, goes anyways, fails at the mission, Bruce shows up and tells her it’s over for her and the case. She gets mad starts punching him, and then she ends up on top kissing him. Batman stops and says it’s wr-NO! He actually wraps around her and has sex with her. WHAT?!?!!?! Warner Bros. wanted to make her less of an object that progresses the story, but this probably does the opposite of that more than anything. The age difference is the least thing worrying me about this. It’s Batman who takes advantage of Batgirl’s experience and childhood-like behavior for a lack of a better word or should I say lack of a better movie. Doesn’t Batman know better? I mean, it’s not like he had a parental figure to teach him otherwise…..But Batman should know better!
Batgirl also becomes unlikable as she randomly just throws a random guy on the street that says to his girlfriend, “I need space”. She acts like a whinny baby who is only in it for her crush. Listen, I get this relationship also went through in the DC Animated Universe, but like I said Batman and Batgirl both approached this situation way differently than their true counterparts would. This doesn’t even come back later in a movie to somehow pay-off in any sort of way. Batman could’ve kissed the Joker and it would’ve made more sense (I mean one can’t live without the other).
Brian’s reason for doing this? He said because the Killing Joke was already such a controversial story they wanted to make it even more controversial. Again a very clear misunderstanding of the novel. Killing Joke was so controversial because it is debated if Batman killed the Joker or not. Plus the set-up to that ending was earned and made sense if Batman did kill the Joker. I don’t wanna paint out Brian Azzerello as a villain, he probably thought he was doing an acceptable thing, it didn’t help the legends like the animator Bruce Timm and other team members agreed to this. They should have expected such huge backlash since the film was primarily targeted for the fans. It’s really hard to defend Azzerello when the Comic-Con panel didn’t help his case.
This is what happened. It was the last fan Q&A for the movie’s panel and a fan dressed as the Joker asked the creators why they decided to make Batgirl a character more about drooling over men. The crowd applauded the question, the creators decided to say she is still depicted as a strong female and then someone in the audience screamed, “Yeah, by using sex and pinning for Bruce!”. Brian didn’t take it too well and said, “Wanna say that again? Pussy?” So that’s that.
You will probably ask, “Olaf, you’re going to judge an entirety of the movie by one scene?” No, I actually enjoyed the second half of the movie. Heck, after the storm the film faded out and faded in to the scene to the beginning of the graphic novel which was probably originally intended to be the actual start of the movie. I expected that to be the case for the longest time with flashbacks of Batgirl added in the mix, which would have been much more interesting because you would have Barbara flashbacks, BOOM!, her pivotal moment then, Joker “flashbacks”, BOOM!, his pivotal scene with Batman.
If the first 30 minutes was gone I would have probably loved this movie, but that ended up not being the case. The proper part of the film was good, but even then I was bumbed out to truly appreciate what’s happening in front of me. I tried giving the film a second try and I did enjoy it more, especially the second true side, but the problems still remained. There were some positives like the unforced used of the R rating. The feature didn’t have anymore gore or blood than it really needed. Watching it the second time I appreciated the content from the graphic novel more. The animation was surprisingly just okay, and it was done by Bruce Timm.
My first time watching this movie it would have been a 4.1 aka Bad, but seeing it a second time my score is higher. As you can already see I wrote a lot so I should probably just give you the final score.