Batman: The Killing Joke (film)
|Batman: The Killing Joke|
Theatrical release poster
|Written by||Brian Azzarello|
Batman: The Killing Joke|
by Brian Bolland and Alan Moore (uncredited)
|Edited by||Christopher D. Lozinski|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$4.4 million|
Batman: The Killing Joke is a 2016 American animated superhero film produced by Warner Bros. Animation and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Featuring the DC Comics character Batman, the film is the twenty-sixth film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series, based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. The film is directed by Sam Liu, written by Brian Azzarello and stars the voices of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong and Ray Wise. It is the first DC Universe animated film to have an R-rating.
The film premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 22, 2016. Originally intended to be released directly on home video, the film was instead released simultaneously in theaters, on home video, and digitally on July 26, 2016, before a DVD and Blu-ray release on August 2, 2016.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised it for its voice acting and faithfulness to the source material but criticized it for its 30-minute non-canon prologue and its portrayal of Batgirl; it also attained controversy for a certain scene. It grossed $4.4 million worldwide.
While out on patrol, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) fails to stop a robbery, but manages to stop one criminal with help from Batman. Paris Franz, the robbers' leader and the nephew of a powerful mob boss, develops a dangerous obsession with her and starts sending her messages. After Franz tricks her into finding his uncle's dead body, Batman becomes concerned about her safety and takes her off the case, telling her that she will eventually be tempted to kill the criminals she pursues. Outraged, Batgirl attacks Batman physically and verbally, which leads to sex. A few nights later, Batgirl tries to apologize to Batman, but he is ambushed by Franz and his men, prompting her to come to his aid. When she arrives and overpowers Franz, he makes her lose control and give him a savage beating, stopping just short of killing him. Realizing Batman was right, she retires from crime-fighting.
Later, Batman investigates a murder scene with Detective Harvey Bullock and concludes that the Joker, currently held at Arkham Asylum, might be behind the crime. He goes to Arkham to talk to him, only to discover that he has escaped and put a decoy in his place. Joker then attacks Barbara and her father, Commissioner James Gordon. He shoots her in the stomach, causing the bullet to go through her spine, paralyzing her while Gordon gets beaten up by Joker's thugs. Joker takes Gordon to an abandoned amusement park, where he strips him naked and subjects him to torture, showing him photos he took of Barbara, naked and in pain.
The story is intercut with flashbacks of Joker's origin. It is revealed that he was once an engineer who quit his job to become a stand-up comedian, only to fail miserably. Desperate to support his pregnant wife Jeannie, he agrees to help two criminals rob his former workplace. The criminals tell him that he has to use the Red Hood's mask and caped costume, secretly intending to frame him. During the planning, the police inform him that Jeannie and their unborn child died in a household accident. Grief-stricken, he tries to withdraw from the plan, but the criminals strong-arm him into keeping his commitment to them.
At the plant, the criminals and the costumed comedian run into security personnel, and a shootout occurs. The criminals are gunned down and the comedian is confronted by Batman, who is investigating the disturbance. Terrified, the comedian trips and falls into the chemical plant's waste pound, and is swept through a pipe leading to the outside. As he removes his mask, he sees the chemicals have permanently disfigured his face, giving him a clown-like appearance. His disfigurement, combined with the loss of his family, drives him insane and transforms him into Joker.
Back in the present day, Batman finds and saves Gordon, while Joker flees. Despite his ordeals, Gordon remains sane and demands Batman to capture the Joker "by the book". Batman follows Joker as Joker tries to persuade him that the world is just one big joke, and that "one bad day" is enough to drive an ordinary man insane. Batman eventually subdues Joker, tells him that Gordon has remained sane, and concludes that Joker is alone in his madness. He then attempts to reach out to him, offering rehabilitation. Joker declines, saying it is too late. He then says that the situation reminds him of a joke about two patients in an insane asylum who try to escape by leaping over to the adjoining building. The first patient makes it across, but the second patient is too afraid. The first patient says, "Hey, I got this flashlight with me. I'll shine it across the gap between the buildings and you can walk across the beam and join me." But the second patient says, "What do you think I am, crazy? You'll just turn it off when I'm halfway across!" Batman and Joker share a laugh at the joke as the police arrive.
In a mid-credits scene, Barbara is in her wheelchair entering a secret room in her apartment. As she turns on her computers, Oracle's logo appears on the screen and follows by saying "back to work."
- Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne / Batman
- Mark Hamill as Joker
- Tara Strong as Barbara Gordon / Batgirl
- Ray Wise as Commissioner James Gordon
- Robin Atkin Downes as Detective Harvey Bullock
- John DiMaggio as Carlos Francesco
- Brian George as Alfred Pennyworth
- J. P. Karliak as Reese
- Andrew Kishino as Murray
- Nolan North as Mitch
- Maury Sterling as Parry Francesco / Paris Franz
- Fred Tatasciore as Carnival Owner
- Bruce Timm as Patrolman
- Anna Vocino as Jeannie
- Kari Wahlgren as Call Girl
- Rick D. Wasserman as Sal Maroni
In 2011, during San Diego Comic-Con International, actor Mark Hamill, who wanted to quit playing the Joker at that time, stated that he would be willing to voice the Joker for an adaptation of The Killing Joke, encouraging fans to campaign for said adaptation, most notably in a tweet on October 24, 2011. Since then, a Facebook page titled "Petition to get Mark Hamill to play the Joker in animated Killing Joke" was set up by his fans. In 2013, Bruce Timm also expressed a desire to create the project, saying it was only a possibility. On July 10, 2015, during the Justice League: Gods and Monsters panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Timm announced that an animated film based on the novel was in development and slated to be released in 2016. Sam Liu will direct and Timm will executive produce the film. The film will feature a 15-minute prologue that sets up the story. On July 17, Hamill tweeted that he had his "fingers crossed" in hopes that he would be contacted to reprise his role as the Joker. On July 27, Collider.com reported that Hamill will voice the Joker in the film and ComicBook.com spoke with Kevin Conroy who has stated he would reprise his voice role as Bruce Wayne / Batman "in a heartbeat". Although Collider has reported that Hamill will reprise the role for the film, Hamill himself has stated he still has his fingers crossed. On March 14, 2016, it was officially announced that Conroy and Hamill would reprise their roles as Batman and Joker respectively in the film alongside Tara Strong returning to voice Barbara Gordon and Ray Wise voicing Commissioner Gordon. The rest of the voice cast was revealed on Apple's iTunes digital release of the film.
In January 2016, Timm revealed that the film would be screened at San Diego Comic-Con in July. He added that the team had to "add a lot more story" for the film due to the source novel not being long enough to make a feature-length film. In February 2016, concept artist Phil Bourassa revealed that in 2009, Timm was slated to produce an R-rated version of The Killing Joke, but development on the film was stalled after two weeks due to the under-performance of Watchmen, while also showcasing concept art of the Joker. In April, Warner Home Video confirmed that The Killing Joke will be the first film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series and the first Batman film to receive an R rating from the MPAA, with Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series president Sam Register explaining, "From the start of production, we encouraged producer Bruce Timm and our team at Warner Bros. Animation to remain faithful to the original story—regardless of the eventual MPAA rating… We felt it was our responsibility to present our core audience—the comics-loving community—with an animated film that authentically represented the tale they know all too well."
In terms of animation production, the crew admitted that trying to adapt Bolland's art style was challenging due to the realistic quality; they then sought out another artist with a simpler yet very similar style that would be easier to animate, settling on Kevin Nowlan.
Warner Home Video hosted the world premiere of The Killing Joke during the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con on July 22, 2016. The film was released digitally on July 26, 2016, while the deluxe edition and combo pack Blu-ray of the film will be released on August 2, 2016. On June 8, 2016, Fathom Events and Vue cinemas announced they would release the film in select theaters for one night only on July 25, 2016 throughout the US and the UK. On July 18, 2016, Fathom Events announced that the film would receive an additional two showings on July 26 due to "unprecedented demand." It also received a limited release in Australia, New Zealand and Mexico on July 24, 2016.
Batman: The Killing Joke grossed $3.8 million in the USA & Canada and $586,038 in other countries, for a total gross of $4.3 million. In the United States, the film grossed an estimated $3.2 million on the first night of the Fathom Events screenings and became the biggest theaterical event in Fathom's history.
Batman: The Killing Joke received mixed reviews from critics, with criticism aimed at the prologue regarding the changes to the relationship between Batman and Batgirl and the latter's portrayal: however, the voice acting and the faithfulness to its source material in the second half were praised. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 48%, based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10.
Ben Travers of IndieWire commented that "instead of humanizing her, [the prologue] turns Barbara/Batgirl into a comic book cliche: The female character that feigns complexity, but, when given an expanded role, is only viewed through a sexual lens." Tommy Cook of Collider.com writes that the prologue "feels tonally jarring tacked on haphazardly to The Killing Joke." Many critics and fans agreed the first half of the film felt unnecessary and disconnected to the second half. Jesse Schedeen of IGN writes, "The creep factor comes from the fact that Batgirl has such a clearly subordinate relationship to Batman. He's the seasoned veteran and mentor. She's the newbie pupil... Worst of all, none of this opening act has any real bearing on the remainder of the film. Batgirl still comes across as a sacrificial lamb in the end. Her insipid romantic drama adds no weight to her eventual trauma."
We were aware that it's a little risky. There's definitely some stuff in that first part of the movie that's going to be controversial. Here's where we came down on that specific issue: It was really important to us to show that both of the characters make some pretty big mistakes. I mean, his "parental skills" aren't that great. Maybe never having had any kids of his own, he doesn't realize that if you tell a kid to not do something, they're going to want to do it even more. And then she makes some mistakes and then he kind of overreacts to her mistakes and then she overreacts to his overreaction. So it's very human; it's a very understandable story. It's tricky because it's messy, because relationships are sometimes messy. But to me and to Alan and Brian, it was all very fascinating to us to explore that angle.
Some critics took issue with added scenes that appear to imply Barbara Gordon was raped during the torture she suffered at the Joker's hands. Jamie Righetti of Film School Rejects writes, "[I]t's made even worse by a follow-up scene in which Batman is questioning a group of prostitutes about the whereabouts of The Joker. The girls tell Batman that The Joker normally comes to see them after he escapes custody and that he likes a good time ... But then one of the girls says that The Joker hasn't come to see them this time and that maybe he's found a new girl instead. Let that sink in for a minute: Barbara is that new girl. Barbara, who has just been shot in the stomach and raped." Bruce Timm has denied the implication, stating, "I did not think of it as supporting that. If I had, I probably would have changed the line. I never, ever thought that he actually raped her. Even in my first read of the comic, I never thought that."
The art and animation has been met with a mixed reception. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of The Daily Dot writes, "Each scene is recreated with painstaking accuracy, but DC's animation style does not measure up to the impact of Brian Bolland's 1980s noir aesthetic."
The film's voice acting and faithfulness to the source material in the second half were received more positively. Nick Bosworth of JoBlo.com writes that "the best strength of this film however hands down in the voice talent behind it. Kevin Conroy is in top form returning as Bruce Wayne (He is never seen as Bruce Wayne in the film except in the Batcave with Alfred talking about the Joker) and of course Mark Hamill as Joker."
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