The Killing Joke: Interesting Adaptation Of Exceptional Graphic Novel – My Thoughts

The Killing Joke is a story I had only rather recently become hugely familar with and when I heard they were making a film, I immediately booked my ticket. After having seen it last night, I bring to you my thoughts on this controversial adaptation of one of the most controversial superhero stories ever told…

The Killing Joke had been hugely anticipated ever since it was announced Warner Bros. Animation were going to be tackling the classic DC Comics graphic novel. This anticipation heightened when it was announced that, due to the incredibly positive fan reaction of the announcement that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were going to be reprising their legendary roles as Batman and The Joker, The Killing Joke was going to get a one screening only cinematic release in select cinemas. It was then announced that certain cinemas in the U.S were going to be showing 2 screenings. It’s not hard to work out how excited people were for this film.

With the original graphic novel by legendary writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing) and artist Brian Bolland being heralded as one of the finest Batman stories ever told (and often the finest Joker story too), this film version had many, many fans booking their tickets for this one time only screening, eager to see what would be done with their beloved source material…this is the trailer we got…

The event screening began with a short feature on Mark Hamill’s Joker. The man who, for the majority of Batman fans, IS the Joker tells us what it felt like to become this character again after stating that he would only return to the character (that put a huge strain on his vocal chords) if The Killing Joke was adapted into a film. A wonderful way to kick off the evening was to see Hamill so excited about voicing the Joker again and it certainly seemed to get the packed crowd even more excited.

The main feature then began, starting with a 30min story centred around Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl, a key character in The Killing Joke. This story does not appear in the original novel and is the major way in which the creators behind this film version decided to flesh out the story. This opening story has received quite a substantial amount of backlash due to a particularly intimate scene between Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Batgirl (Tara Strong), an intimate relationship few would have even thought about existing but while many other fans seem to dislike this, I felt personally more interested by the decision to have it in and felt it brought about a deeper connection between Batman and Batgirl that hadn’t been thought about before. It just made the actual events of The Killing Joke feel more emotional.

Those of us who are aware of all the questions, discussions and theories that The Killing Joke has brought about since its publication in 1988 will surely realise that the opening was put in for a reason, to accentuate Barbara as a major character in the story. That being said, no, it isn’t the best part of this film and yes, in parts, it did feel out of place but you can’t help being drawn in by Conroy and Tara Strong’s impeccable voice work.

Then the real show begins, which was as good an adaptation of the story of The Killing Joke as most would’ve hoped for, complete with Hamill’s as always, perfect performance as the Joker. The Killing Joke tells the story of the Joker’s origin, outside of the main Batman lore and centres around his theory that everyone can go mad after having one bad day. I won’t go into more detail in case you aren’t familiar with the story. It is an incredibly dark tale, a disturbing tale and has a tone which the film just didn’t quite live up to in parts. Certainly the performances are all excellently dark enough but perhaps it was the actual animation that made it feel not quite as dark as Moore’s graphic novel.

Seeing the story of The Killing Joke brought to life in this way with these actors is enough to make any Batman fan beam though and such a slight nit-pick as ‘not quite (and I mean quite) being as dark as the novel didn’t detract from my thorough enjoyment of the film.

The event screening finished with a feature on the music within The Killing Joke which provided a nice insight into the thought processes behind the composers and on Joker’s famous musical number. Both this and the opening feature on Hamill’s Joker will I’m sure be available on the Blu-Ray and DVD release on August 8.

The Killing Joke should certainly be seen by any Batman fan and I’m sure will develop as much controversy and discussion that the original graphic novel did. It is no lie that the book is superior, but it does help when you read it with those legendary voices in mind.

Be sure to let me know your thoughts on The Killing Joke if you were fortunate enough to see it in a screening in the comments and check me out on Twitter and Instagram! Also if Horror’s your thing, head on over to the HorrorHouse section of this website where you can listen to all 5 episodes of my new podcast!!

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