Starring: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise, Nolan North.
The adaptation of hallowed material always raises questions, should it even be undertaken? What if it tarnishes the source material? What if it straight up sucks? These are questions that most certainly were destined to be levelled at the 2016 WB Animation adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke.
The feature has been lovingly animated and is presented beautifully and a stellar cast assembled so all win right? Well, yes & no. The first 30 minutes of The Killing Joke caused the most consternation amongst fans of the comic, a non-canon prologue that tries to add an ill advised layer of sexual tension between Batgirl & Batman, it is a choice that if I’m honest creeped me the hell out. I have NEVER thought of the relationship between Batman & Batgirl to be any different to that of Batman & Robin so this sexualisation of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl really doesn’t sit right with me, it felt gratuitous, utterly needless and cheapened a strong, beloved character for no other reasons than titillation and to pad the film’s running time.
Thankfully, when we reach the main story, The Killing Joke hits all the right notes. Kevin Conroy & Mark Hamill’s renditions of Batman & Joker are as spot on as any fan-boy could have hoped for. These are two voice actors who have inhabited these characters for many years, know them intimately and it shows in their combined performances. The Killing Joke is a classic Batman story and one that is beloved by fans of The Dark Knight and thankfully this story remains mercifully untampered with and honours the book admirably, it’s a shame that the people who made this felt the need to inject what they may have considered as ‘the shock factor’ to extend the film’s running time, The Killing Joke is only a short story so was never going to take up much screen time in an adaptation, however, there is also no need for a lazy, ‘controversial’ prologue either, it for me did nothing more than sour an otherwise enjoyable experience.
If you are a fan, approach The Killing Joke with caution. You will enjoy seeing a book you know well brought lovingly to life even if the start leaves a sour taste in the mouth.