The highly anticipated animated adaptation of the popular graphic novel is finally here! Unfortunately, it also came with a few issues that left me feeling pretty conflicted. For those of you who don’t know, “Batman: The Killing Joke” is a one-shot by Alan Moore that ended up being so popular that many adaptations of Batman consider the events official canon. It is the exploration of how the Caped Crusader can’t be defined without his greatest enemy, and the analysis that they are two sides of the same coin. Its your typical “we’re not so different, you and I” trope between the detective and serial killer, and its done extremely well. The story also serves as the Joker’s backstory, where readers actually end up feeling somewhat sorry for the guy.
Since the graphic novel isn’t very long, more content had to be added in order to make this a 90-minute movie. The turning point of the story features Barbara Gordon, aka the Batgirl and daughter to Commissioner Gordon. Due to this major event, it was decided to add more content that featured Batgirl to the movie. It becomes obvious that the purpose of this “prologue” was to establish her important relationship to Batman, so that when “the thing” happens, the tension is higher. So what kind of tension did the writers decide to go for?…the easiest one to write that also ends up being the most frustrating one…sexual tension. Here we go…
[SPOILERS START HERE]
Just to get the easy stuff out of the way first, the actual “Killing Joke” part of the movie was great. The artwork, music, and voice acting (Conroy, Hamill, and Strong did exactly what you’d expect) all helped bring this sadistic story to life. The Joker’s song that he performs while Gordon is going through the ride was absolutely fantastic, and was genuinely eerie.
So lets dive in to what disappointed. This whole “prologue” part felt like a lifetime drama, and Barbara’s dialogue might as well have been “Senpai, notice me please!” Basically, Batgirl messes up, Batman fixes it and scolds her, Batgirl vents to her gay coworker about an older man she’s “seeing”, Batgirl tries to fight villain, horrible villain does something stupid, repeat about three times. This wasn’t a Father-Daughter relationship, this wasn’t a relationship between partners, this wasn’t a teacher-student relationship. Honestly, I wouldn’t even consider it a romantic relationship. The closeness of the two characters is established when they bang and have some typical “I’m Batman” dialogue from Bruce that later serves as the transition to get him to confront the Joker (this was also handled poorly, connecting those dots was a stretch).
But here’s my real problem with it. Before I move on, let me just say that as a straight male, tackling this part of the review might be a tough area, but i’m doing it anyway. (If any of this is offensive or insensitive, PLEASE message me and I will clean it up right away).Batgirl is somewhat demeaned in this story. It seems like her purpose in the movie is to be hyper-sexualized and fetishized to the point where it becomes a little ridiculous. We get this villain that keeps making sexual advances at Batgirl, and Batman deems him “too dangerous” for her because of this. Seriously, this guy’s entire identity as a villain is that he’s horny for Batgirl, and she’s shown as visibly affected by it. The Batgirl I know could kick this guy to Bludhaven and back, no problem. This is a girl that has spent her whole life experiencing her POLICE COMMISSIONER FATHER dealing with criminals that are much worse, so this shouldn’t have been a problem. Furthermore, why did the villain need to be like this? We could’ve just as easily had a villain instead maybe, oh I don’t know, threaten her Dad who’s a public figure? That’s enough motivation for a female character to want to bring someone to justice that doesn’t involve the creepy villain fantasizing about her constantly, right?
Look, all we needed were awesome scenes with Batman and Batgirl as partners kicking butt and taking names together , and if you really wanted to go the romantic route maybe throw in a scene where there is mutual interest and affection. What we got was Batgirl as a love-struck teenybopper with the most irrational “overly attached girlfriend” complex, and that’s pretty insulting to her character and to her fans. Conflict happens with Batman and his partners, but why is it that Jason Todd got “conflict of ideology regarding the justice system” whereas Batgirl gets “I have a crush on you”, despite her being older than the male characters who have been Robin? Its especially hard to believe that the girl that ends up as Oracle, Batman’s right-hand technology genius, is reduced to this level of immaturity. At one point in this movie, Batman LITERALLY says “We’re not equals”. I get that he probably didn’t mean it in a “Man vs Woman” context, but why is Batgirl getting treated so badly only to get paralyzed by the Joker anyway?
I really wish they did this differently. I really wish we were shown how well the two work together and their chemistry, with subtle hints on how they feel about each other. That would’ve made it even more devastating when she gets shot by the Joker. Showing Batgirl constantly complaining and Batman as the stern voice of reason, then showing them having sex was poor execution and, in my opinion, very insulting to her character.
Batman: The Killing Joke gets a 6.5/10
Reviewed Rating: 5.5/10
Those are my thoughts on The Killing Joke. Please let me know what you think, I welcome discussion and would love to hear what others have to say.
That’s all for now,