*Warning: I have not read the graphic novel this is based on. I know, I lose all of my geek points for not having read all of the Alan Moore. I’m okay with that. If you want comparisons between the movie and the book, go to someone else better versed. I’m just here to talk about the movie right now.*
So, The Killing Joke, amiright? I’ve heard about the graphic novel for decades. Hell, I remember wishing I had the money to buy it when the series was first published. Alas, I never did. It’s supposed to be super amazing though, and I really love Jedi Joker.
Before we get into my highly important opinion, though, let’s do the whole synopsis gag. The Joker has escaped from double-A. Again. This time, he’s going after inspector Gordon as his way to get at Batman. Specifically, he goes after Gordon’s daughter, aka Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. I don’t really know how much to give away, since the big surprises here were dropped in a book that came out before I was a teenager. Spoilers might show up in the forthcoming.
First off, Jedi Joker was great, as always. I never quite got the adoration of Kevin Conway’s Batman, but at least he doesn’t do that stupid growling thing that every batman has done since Keaton. Tara Strong was a bit too all over the place for me, but I think that had as much to do with the writing as with her performance.
As far as the story goes, I can see where much of the hubbub comes from. This is the one that really focuses on the similarities between Batman and the Joker (something that has never shown up in the myriad movie versions of big J, which makes me incredibly sad). Also, we finally get a back story for the clown prince. That’s kinda nice, if you hate mystery. It does present us with a solid picture of two incredibly, fundamentally broken men who leave nothing but destruction in their wake and it ends on a quite chilling note. I had a good time watching it.
But it has its problems.
Yup, people are (rightly) complaining about the portrayal of Babs here. She’s flighty and driven entirely by her emotions (women… right fellas? Wink wink nudge nudge puke). Worse, she exists entirely to provide the impetus for the character arcs of Gordon and Wayne and to show how mean and bad the Joker is. It made me sad that she is reduced to that when we start off with a 20 minute setup that seems to tell us we will be watching her story. However, that’s kinda what Moore does with women. They never seem to exist for any reason besides furthering the stories of the men. He isn’t the only one, but he does it a whole hell of a lot. Still, if the writers of this version were going to vere from the source material anywhere, that would have been the place to do it.
What surprises me is that I haven’t heard as many complaints about the portrayal of the Joker. Yeah, his “one bad day” speech falls pretty well in line with him and his desire to show that everyone else is just like him. Where the writer’s lost me early on was throwing him into the whole “all bad guys are rapists” trope. Maybe it’s just me, but rape has never seemed to be Joker’s bag. He always seemed to be more about upsetting the apple cart, displaying the lack of control we all have in the chaos of the world, not exerting control over others. Especially not in the form of sexual dominance. Even if Barbara was written lazily, at least the writers were consistent with her characterization. But, bad guys be rapin’. Right, fellas?
If we didn’t already have hero movies that explored the idea of how messed up someone would have to be to want to place themselves as the sole arbiter of justice in the night, the themes explored in The Killing Joke would hit much harder. We have those, though. Shit, have you seen Super? Fucking hell, that movie is bonkers. By the way, I do realize that the Moore likely paved the way for those films but I also realize that I could just go back to that series if I want to see the progression into modern super hero lore.
Poster Art: It’s an image almost directly from the movie that echoes the cover of the original graphic novel. It also doesn’t tell you much of anything about the story or even carry much of a punch on it’s own. Sure, if you already know the scene this ties to, then maybe you feel something. It just doesn’t do much for me.