What is arguably considered the darkest chapter in Batman’s history is finally becoming a full length feature film. The story of the upcoming animated feature follows Batman as he hunts for the escaped Joker throughout Gotham City. The Clown Prince of Crime, however, gets the jump on the Caped Crusader when he attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point about his own descent into madness. On April 26th, an official trailer was released to give fans a glimpse of the adaptation.
DC Fans have often cited BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES from the 90s as the definitive version of Batman. The story was dark, the animation was great, and every villain was cast in a tragic, sympathetic light. Fans of the show especially praise the performances of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for their portrayals as the Dark Knight and his nemesis the Joker respectively. Though the show has been off the air for years, and these DC characters have since gone through many different iterations in television, animated films, and video games, fans of the original show were always delighted whenever these two great actors were brought in to reprise their roles. In October of 2011, Hamill announced that he would be retiring from the role after nearly 20 years, but later assured fans that he would be happy to return to the role if an adaptation of Alan Moore’s THE KILLING JOKE were ever made (although he did contribute his voice to a few of the Arkham games in recent years). As such, fans were elated in July of 2015 when Collider reported that Hamill would in fact star in said adaptation of the classic graphic novel. Fans were also happy to see that the film wouldn’t be pulling any punches, as it carries an R rating, clearly demonstrating that the adaptation will undoubtedly endeavor to be faithful to the source material (let’s just hope that all the parents who took their kids to see DEADPOOL in theaters have learned their lesson and will just steer clear of this one altogether).
As thrilled as I am that Hamill is returning in a feature length animated Batman film, I can’t say that I hold any particular love for the source material. As I mentioned in a previous article, I find Moore’s work to be a touch pretentious and overrated. THE KILLING JOKE in particular, though undoubtedly a game changer in the DC comic world, fell into many of the same tropes that make Moore’s work, shall we say, just not my cup of tea nine times out of ten. Even Moore himself readily admits “I don’t think it’s a very good book. It’s not saying anything very interesting” and is especially critical of his decision to cripple Barbara Gordon (as well he should be, in my opinion) stating, “It was probably one of the areas where they should’ve reined me in, but they didn’t.”
However, despite my agreement with Moore’s sentiment regarding Batgirl’s fate, I will also readily admit that I have the benefit of living in a world roughly 30 years after the release of the graphic novel, where many of the plot points and dark images introduced in the comic would go on to become commonplace in the world of Batman (and live in a world where Batgirl is finally getting her due). Themes like Batman and the Joker being mirror images of one another are deeply rooted within this story, and would greatly contribute to the comics’ return to a darker narrative. The impact of the narrative affected all of the characters in the comics for decades, and can be seen as having influenced countless adaptations, including Tim Burton’s BATMAN, Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT, THE ANIMATED SERIES, and the numerous DC animated films that have come out since the late 90s. The things this graphic novel revolutionized have now become the standard for many Batman narratives, so when I originally read it, I had a hard time understanding why it was so highly praised. The original work needs to be taken in the context of the time of its release, and with that context in mind it can truly be appreciated for the impact it has had, despite its many flaws and problematic story elements. So no, I don’t love THE KILLING JOKE, but I do greatly appreciate it and everything it’s done, as I will no doubt appreciate this upcoming adaptation.
BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE stars Kevin Conroy, Ray Wise, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong. It is set to be released on Blur-ray and DVD in the summer of 2016.
What did you think of the trailer? Are you excited to see this classic comic finally adapted to a full feature, or do you think it’s a book that should have stayed on the shelf? Be sure to let us know @TheMovieChickk!
Want to see more of the dark and gritty side of the animated DC universe? Check out BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS on Amazon.com!