The following review contains spoilers for Batman: The Killing Joke.
Good versus evil is the foundation stories are built upon. At the end of the day, good must triumph over evil. Batman: The Killing Joke exposes the cracks in that foundation, all while exploring one of the darkest arcs in DC comic book lore.
The animated adaption of Alan Moore’s work is dark in tone and deeply disturbing. The 1988 graphic novel is considered a classic amongst many comic book fans, but this material isn’t that of a typical comic. The Killing Joke contains sex, bloody violence, and rape. The story is based upon these elements and without them, the story cannot be told. At times these subjects might make audiences uncomfortable, but that is part of Moore’s detailed storytelling. The characters are being pushed to the limit and in turn, the audiences go through the same emotionally taxing process. The Killing Joke doesn’t shy away from these dark story elements and embraces the style that was drawn. The Killing Joke allows audiences to go into the mind of The Joker, for better or worse.
The Killing Joke features the return of Mark Hamill as The Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. Hamill is truly the standout of this film, he is able to bring out layers of complexity to his character as Killing Joke explores the origins of The Joker. We see Joker before he was consumed my insanity and murder. He was in love, starting a family and trying to make the world laugh. He wanted to bring joy to people, instead of death. Through a series of tragic events, the Joker faces off against Batman, resulting in his physical and mental transformation. Batman is responsible for the creation of his biggest foe, a memory which would haunt and change him for years to come.
The most complex and captivating part of Killing Joke is the dynamic between the Joker (Mark Hamill) and Batman (Kevin Conroy). Without Batman, the Joker wouldn’t exist. The distance between good versus evil shrinks and lines become blurred. The two characters are forced to realize that they are more similar than different. Batman is trying to distance himself from this reality. This back-and-forth between the two characters creates intense tension that is felt throughout of Moore’s novel and it seamlessly transfers to animation.
The visuals of this animated feature feel more like a comic book than an animated feature. All of the elements of storytelling have been carefully crafted and allows the audience to become fully consumed by this haunting and disturbing story.
The Killing Joke is a must see for comic-book fans but a warning should be issued, this is not for children.