“Batman: The Killing Joke” stars Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, and Ray Wise. Released in select cinemas as a one night event on July 25, 2016, the film has Batman hunting for the Joker, who has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon.
The film is directed by Sam Liu, who also directed many animated films for both Marvel Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. It is loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. It is also the twenty-sixth film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. Now, I know what you are thinking. How was I able to see this film before its DVD release? Long story short, Fathom Events and Warner Bros. Animation teamed up to release the film in select theaters for one night only and, lucky for me, they were showing it at my closest theater. Jealous yet? I wasn’t really planning on reviewing this film because it is considered to be a direct-to-DVD animated film, but since it is based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel, I figured, “Why the heck not?” I haven’t exactly read the novel the film is based on, so I will be reviewing it as its own film.
Before the film, they showed a brief interview of Mark Hamill, the voice behind the Joker, who explains his first experience voicing the clown prince of crime. This is a pretty nice feature that is exclusive to the theatrical event, along with a behind the scenes look at the film’s disturbing, yet impressive, soundtrack that is shown after the film. One of the things I liked about the film is the voice cast, ranging from the great Kevin Conroy as the Caped Crusader to Ray Wise as Commissioner Gordon. Conroy was pretty fantastic with his role, as he has always been, but the biggest show-stealer of all has to be the great Mark Hamill as the Joker. My God, this has to be his best voice work yet. His voice immediately captured the insanity of the psychological character. Hearing the two iconic voice actors (Conroy and Hamill) working together again will surely bring a big smile on a lot of fans of the animated series. The animation wasn’t as immersive nor as grand as the other animated films we had this year, but it really captured the style and tone of the graphic novel, especially the character designs, which is pretty impressive for a direct-to-DVD feature. Speaking of tone, this is the first animated Batman film to receive an R rating in terms of some bloody imagery and its unnerving content, and it shows. It didn’t really offer any unexpected punches, but the execution of how dark and unsettling the story is, along with some flashbacks of the Joker’s origins, was pretty solid.
Aside from its lack of emotional depth, I do feel that the first half of the film, which is a ‘prologue’ that focuses on Batgirl (voiced by Tara Strong), should’ve been left off as a separate film, even though it is pretty darn captivating. It didn’t really serve a purpose to the film’s main concept, unless it does, but again, I haven’t read the graphic novel.
Overall, aside from its unnecessary prologue and its inability to delve even deeper into the storyline, “Batman: The Killing Joke” is a haunting, yet solidly executed, addition to the DC Animated Universe collection thanks to its stylistic animation and Mark Hamill’s brilliant voice work as the Joker. Seeing this latest film on the big screen was an enjoyable experience for me and for those who are long time Batman fans. It didn’t quite match the experience of watching The Hateful Eight in 70mm, but it was a fun ride regardless. Creepy, but fun. The film will be released as a digital download on July 26, 2016 before its Blu-ray release on August 2.