If The Killing Joke was your first taste of the DCAU, I have two things to say to you. 1) You shouldn’t have waited so long to see the other films. Superman: Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern First Flight, Justice League: DOOM, Batman/Superman: Public Enemies, and more are all great films to watch before you watch The Killing Joke. Why? The main reason is because the bulk of the reviews I saw from this movie came from people who didn’t see the at least two of those films I mentioned above. This movie was extremely hyped up. It is the only DCAU movie to get a movie theater release. That’s impressive in its own right. Now, there a plethora of reasons why this film had so much hype around it. The timing of Suicide Squad helped. DC has been thrusted back into the limelight with the release of their 3rd DCEU movie. The fact it’s rated R is one too. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are another reason. These two men have been the voices of Batman and Joker for nearly 30 years. You can’t get more authentic than that. I think the main reason this film had so much hype is because it’s based off of the BEST Batman/Joker story of all time. When people ask what story represents Batman and Joker’s relationship, this is the one. All DC fans know this story, and maybe some casual fans of superheroes know it too. It created the most accepted origin story of the Joker and has one of the most ambiguous endings in any story, not just comics. All of that, combining with the fact that DC owns the animated movie scene, made the hype for this movie unreal.
In this review, I will NOT be talking about the graphic novel. This review is just to analyze the movie and how good of a comic book movie it was. But my expectations for this film were very, very high. I’ve enjoyed pretty much every animated movie DC has done. I didn’t like the last Batman one and have yet to see Justice League vs. Teen Titans, but every one before that is a good film. The DCAU nails Batman in every way. The best thing about their portrayal of Batman though is his dialogue. The best Batman line came from Batman vs. Robin when he tells the Talons to, “Get the hell out of my house!” I was jumping around out of my seat during that scene. This movie to me, should be no different. I wasn’t expecting to jump out of my seat during this movie though. The dialogue in the graphic novel is next level. I figured the movie would be no different.
The movie starts out with Barbara Gordon narrating. I liked this because they focused on her for the first part of the film. A lot of people I know didn’t like this part of the film, but it honestly wasn’t that bad to me. I almost wanted to see a Batgirl film after this movie was done. A day in the life of Barbara Gordon. More scenes of her fighting, her funny coworker at the library, and a flushed out story with Paris Franz would definitely grab my attention. Honestly, it did for the first part of the film. I have to disagree with everyone who thinks this didn’t add any depth to her accident later on. I do think it was a bit unnecessary though. Anyway, the movie starts with Batman and Batgirl pursuing a mobster named Paris Franz. He is obsessed with Batgirl. She tracks him to a warehouse and expects to beat him up easily. She finds out he isn’t an “amateur.” He sprays her with a spray that causes her to pass out for a few minutes. Batman warns her that Franz is a dangerous man. His sociopathic ways show themselves early. Batgirl doesn’t care. Her arrogance is apparent too. Batman only wants to protect her because he cares about her. He cares about all of his sidekicks, tries to keep them out of trouble. Of course, we can all remember a time where the sidekicks got themselves in trouble when they don’t listen to Batman.
The film focuses on Barbara after that. We get to see her at her job. She works at Gotham Library. Her coworker was hilarious. He’s clearly gay. Like I said above, their dynamic could have been stretched for a simple Batgirl movie. She talks to her coworker about her complicated relationship with Batman. She wants to be with him, but she doesn’t know how he feels. Barbara also doesn’t like how controlling he is. She wants freedom. Barbara doesn’t look at herself as a sidekick. She wants respect from Batman because she thinks she’s earned it. Franz later leaves Batgirl a phone, leading her to his dead uncle’s body. A slew of guards come to their boss’ aide. Batgirl attempts to fight them off, but there appear to be too many. Who else but Batman to come to her rescue. He saves Batgirl and the two of them meet on a roof. This next scene split a bunch of people. The main reason I don’t have a problem with it, is because I have seen weirder things in comic books. Batgirl yells at Batman. She wants to know why she can’t be by his side when it comes to Franz. Batman tells her straight up that she isn’t in it like he is. He’s right of course. He tells her that it’s still a game for her. Of course, she disagrees. She starts to fight Batman in frustration. She ends up holding him down, but they stop fighting. Batgirl kisses Batman, and the pair end up having sex. The only reason this is weird for me, is that Batman is more than likely 10 years older than Barbara. She’s at most 25 in this movie. He’s at least 35 I think. Other than that, I don’t have a problem with this scene. It adds depth to Barbara. After the sex though, things get weird between them. They don’t talk for a while. She radios Batman one night to see what he’s doing. He’s tracked Franz to a shipping dock. He isn’t talking about what happened the other night. She’s clearly upset that Batman doesn’t acknowledge what happened. Batman is soon after attacked by Franz and his crew. This time, Batgirl saves him. She takes down the crew and takes out Franz. She begins punching Franz repeatedly. You can see the anger in her eyes. She says to Franz, “You ruined everything!” meaning her growing relationship with Batman. It’s a powerful moment because soon after, she meets Batman with her things, and quits. She realizes that Batman was right. Barbara let Franz get into her head to the point that she almost lost control. It’s something she never wants to happen again. The music here is awesome. You can see the pain on Batman’s face. To me, this is probably the best part of the film.
The film transitions here a bit awkwardly. I don’t think the first part hurts the “Killing Joke” part. It gives more importance to Barbara and her attack later. They just feel like two different movies. Two really good movies, it just isn’t coherent to me. Batman investigates a murder that Joker no doubt it behind. He goes to Arkham Asylum to talk to him. He goes into Joker’s cell to see if he in fact is still there. The dialogue here is really cool and unorthodox from Batman. He tells Joker that he’s been thinking a lot about how everything is going to end. Will he kill the Joker? Will Joker kill him? Who knows? Batman just wants Joker to know that he is going to make an attempt to talk things over before that time comes. It’s foreshadowing the end of the film. Of course, Joker is missing. A replacement was sitting there listening to Batman the whole time. We learn that Joker is out buying an old carnival from a man. Here, we get the Joker’s origin. A flashback happens where we learn that he’s a failing comedian. He’s got a pregnant wife too. A moment happens where Joker breaks down and tells his wife he isn’t good enough for her. She assures him that she loves him no matter what. Here you can tell Joker was a simple man. He clearly was a bit socially awkward too. All he wants is to find a way to make some money. How does he plan on doing that? By going to the mob of course. He promises to do a job for the mob. They need him to break into his old factory where he used to work. They want him to wear the Red Hood mask. The mobsters let him know that there isn’t really a Red Hood. Just a bunch of guys dressed up as him to confuse cops. It’s a cool twist and adds extra sympathy for Joker.
In the present, Joker’s sick plans go into effect. He shows up at Jim Gordon’s place. He shoots Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her. He then kidnaps Jim and takes him to the carnival he just recently bought. He tells Barbara that he wants to prove a point. Batman goes to the hospital to find Barbara paralyzed from the waist down. He’s heartbroken. Barbara awakes to tell Batman that Joker’s going all the way this time. At the carnival, Joker strips Gordon down naked and puts him on a carnival ride. The soliloquy Joker has here is a very poignant one. He talks about memories and how they give us our real sense of reality. If we allow all of our memories to possess us, we allow despair and heartbreak into our lives. He says we can close those memories away forever and let madness into our hearts. There is no sanity clause with life. It’s an awesome line because it is true. Painful memories can eat you alive. You have to confront them at some point (which is something Joker refuses to do) but you can’t let them consume you (which is something Batman sometimes does.) He then sends Gordon on a horrible carnival ride.
In the past, we see that Joker is ready to do the job so he and his wife can live a good life. He’s with the mobsters at a bar. Two cops show up, and tell him that his wife has died in an accident. She was testing the baby bottle heater. He’s completely struck with grief, but the mobsters want him to continue with the plan. You can see that Joker wants nothing to do with it. He needs time to grieve. The mobsters aren’t going to give it to him. They go to the factory where he puts on the Red Hood mask. The chemical plant has security now, and they begin to fire at Joker and his crew. He clearly doesn’t want to be a part of this anymore. The two mobsters are killed before Batman shows up. He tells security to stop shooting so he can confront the Red Hood. Joker can’t see. As Batman approaches him, he backs up quickly, but trips over his cape. Batman tries to catch him, but he falls into the acid. Joker ends up on the grass, his hair and skin burning. Here, his signature laugh comes to fruition. It’s a great Joker laugh. The combination of his wife dying, his failed career, and the chemicals destroying his brain, cause a failed comedian, to become the Joker. It’s a sad origin.
Batman eventually finds Gordon. Batman fights Joker’s carny thugs. He frees Gordon as Joker runs away. Throughout all of Joker’s games, Gordon maintains his sanity. Joker stripped him naked, sung a stupid song to him (which was actually funny and clearly a nod to the Looney Tunes) and showed him pictures of a naked, bleeding Barbara. This scene has been debated for some time. Did Joker rape Barbara? I think he did, because Joker is a criminal. This story humanizes his criminal side. Everything here has a point, it isn’t chaos for the sake of chaos. Alan Moore made every moment happen for a reason in the graphic novel. Still, after all of that, Gordon stayed sane. He’s still the same tough son of a bitch we know and love. He tells Batman that he has to bring Joker in “By the book.” As Batman goes to face the Joker, Gordon tells him that, “We have to show him that our way works.” This along with the dialogue in the beginning give me no doubt the answer to the end of the story.
In Joker’s funhouse, he goes on another rant. He explains to Batman that one bad day is all it takes to make a person go mad. One bad day. He starts to ramble about something happening in his past. This is why the Killing Joke is so good. Joker talks about his wife getting killed, his brother getting carved up. He says that something like that happened to him. He remembers it one way or another. He says, “If I have a past, I’d prefer it to be multiple choice.” It’s a great line because it refers back to what Joker said earlier. Memories aren’t really his thing. We know his wife died. He may have had another family member killed. He may have been the original Red Hood, or maybe not. Joker’s past is always questionable. How bad was his one bad day? Joker then asks Batman if one bad day caused him to become Batman. We all know that’s true. Joker then attacks Batman from behind. He tells him that everything people value in life is worthless. Everything is one big joke. He asks Batman “Why can’t you see the funny side. Why aren’t you laughing?!” I heard Joker talking here, but also the socially awkward comedian from the past. The director did a great job blending the two, and Mark Hamill did a great job of letting that awkward man show in this film. He’s pleading to Batman to let go of his bad memories. Batman refuses because his parent’s death is the main reason he doesn’t kill. It made him. A great line comes after this. Batman says, “I’ve heard it before. It wasn’t funny.” My jumping out of my seat moment came after that. Batman gives Joker the business. The combination he throws is awesome! He tells Joker that Gordon is as sane as he ever was. That ordinary people don’t crack, only him. Joker responds with a child-like, “No!” as he swats his hands away from Batman. The pair ends up outside. Joker has a gun. As he pulls the trigger, it’s revealed that the gun is a fake. In a dull, dark moment for our two characters, this moment is pretty funny. The fight is over. Joker wants Batman to beat him up a bit so he can go back to Arkham. Batman lets him know that isn’t going to happen. That their relationship can’t keep happening. Batman makes Joker an offer. He tells Joker that he doesn’t know what made him snap, but he wants to know. Batman wants to rehabilitate him. He wants to fix him. A look comes across Joker’s face I’ve never seen before. He’s the comedian from the past again. With a stern look on his face, he tells Batman that it’s too late for that. Then, in a classic Joker moment, he tells Batman a joke. The joke involves two lunatics in jail. They escape one night and can see rooftops in the night sky. One criminal jumps across the narrow gap and onto the rooftop. The other one is scared. The one who made it across tells his friend he’ll shine a flashlight across the gap so he can walk on it. The scared one says, “What do you think I am stupid? You’ll just turn it off when I’m halfway across.” Joker breaks down laughing. Batman cracks a smile too. He starts laughing uncontrollably along with the Joker. He grabs the Joker by the shoulders. As the camera pans down, both men are out of sight. The Joker stops laughing. Batman’s laugh though, is as loud as ever. The film ends with raindrops as the credits roll.
This wasn’t the best DCAU movie. But I definitely enjoyed it. I liked the Batgirl part in the beginning, but it felt like a completely different film. The sex didn’t bother me too much either. The second part of the movie could have been the beginning, and they could have easily made the flashbacks longer. That could have given a ton of depth and sympathy towards the clown prince. The action in this movie was decent, but it was never about the action. Joker’s dialogue was sensational. It’s different than any Joker we’ve ever heard before. To me, this is why Heath Ledger’s Joker is so great. Killing Joke Joker and Heath Ledger Joker talk in a philosophical way. They explain the “why” in their speech. Sometimes, you find yourself agreeing with these nuts. Mainly because life is about joking around. Sometimes the best way to deal with something is by laughing at it. But then, when we see good men like Gordon and Batman last the Joker’s games, we realize that the ultimate way to deal with life, is to confront it face-to-face and say, “What now, bitch?” It’s a cool message because as tempting as the Joker’s way of life is, The Killing Joke illustrates that even he needs, and maybe wants help. As to the ambiguous ending that people have argued about for years, yes I do think that Batman killed Joker. This is meant to be the ultimate Batman/Joker story. Batman talked to Joker (or what he thought to be Joker) early on. He let him know that this couldn’t go on. At the end, Batman makes his official attempt to help. He doesn’t say jail or Arkham. He says rehab. Batman himself is a broken man. He sees Joker at what he possibly could have become. His offer is genuine no doubt. When Joker refuses, Batman has no choice. I believe he grabbed Joker, and snapped his neck, ending their tumultuous relationship. It’s unclear whether it happened, because everything about Joker is unclear. Alan Moore knows how to write a full story, and almost knows how to end a story even better.
P.S. I think it’s lame DC didn’t give Alan Moore credit at the end. I know their relationship is non-existent, but still, give the man his credit for penning one of the best graphic novels of all time. The animation in this movie was also pretty average. It mixed from traditional DC Animation, to Anime, to Cartoon Network style. It’s a small complaint, but caught me off guard a couple of times.
I hope I did this movie justice! If you liked this review, please share it and make sure to follow me on Twitter @Hero_Review Until next time everyone!