Review of Batman: The Killing Joke Feature Film

By: Graesyn Fenix

Plenty of comic book fans know about and have read The Killing Joke, which originally went to print in 1988. After a long wait and a ton of speculation, it’s finally come to the big screen and, well, it’s catching a lot of heat at the moment. The craziest part about people’s issue with the feature length adaption? They don’t have beef with how the original story was done, the problem stems from an added prologue to the one-off that was added in order to give the story a longer run time. In addition to the 45 minute telling of The Killing Joke, we were given an additional 30 minutes of Batgirl-centric story. I understand the need to add more time, and i commend DC’s team for not deciding to pad the actual story itself with randomness and instead going with a prologue. However, what they gave us was a little forced, a lot weird, and what I’ve learned to expect when someone says the male writers have given the story a strong female character. I’m not saying men can’t write strong female characters, I’m simply saying some of them don’t really get it right.

Strong female character doesn’t just mean they’re good at the fight, the strength people are looking for isn’t necessarily in terms of brute force, but in strength of character, emotional strength. Iit means they don’t turn into what amounts to nothing more than a pining teenager with romantic angst for their older professor. Which is what they did to Barbara Gordon for thirty minutes of screen time. We basically are given a woman who creates a romance in her head, gossips about said romance at work, and throws herself at her romantic interest during an argument about her being too close to a situation. The morning after we see her regretting her decisions, moping around because Batman is mostly avoiding her, and tossing some random guy into some bushes because he yells at his girlfriend for “needing space”. Because apparently a strong woman can’t go out, have sex, and move on, she has to longingly stare at her communicator as if life can’t possibly go on without her man. She can’t handle the emotional baggage and stress but can throw a punch. She is not a strong female lead, she’s what some guy thinks a strong female lead is supposed to be. Apparently there was even some heated discussions about it during the panel for Killing Joke at Comic-Con last week.

However, even with the weirdness that sex between the much older Batman and Batgirl under the watchful eye of a gargoyle, once you get past that part, once the actual story line from Killing joke starts… it’s amazing and everything I had hoped it would be. The art, the music, Hamill and Conroy all of it was brilliant and beautifully done. The story went practically frame for frame with the original graphic novel and they didn’t shy away from anything, which left you with an understanding, and possibly some insight, into the raw insanity that is The Joker. I have to say that the musical number was, without a doubt, the most beautifully, morbidly insane part of the movie that really brought the comic out of the pages. The Killing Joke was wonderful, it was creepy, it was something I highly recommend seeing, just, maybe fast forward through the first bit.

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